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Marching Ever Onward: Pro Football's Concussion Litigation

The United States is a nation composed of sports fanatics. Although not every person across the country spends each weekend firmly ensconced on the sofa watching his or her favorite sport, of course, scores of millions of fans do precisely that.

The recent Super Bowl was certainly evidence of that, with various media outlets reporting that more than 114 million people watched at least part of the game.

That gives sports — and especially professional football — a strongly buttressed platform for the dissemination of information relevant to sports participation.

Things like teamwork come to mind. Proper training techniques. Healthy nutrition. Treatment of injuries.

And concussions.

Sports fans in Missouri and across the country have likely heard much over the past couple years regarding the ongoing legal battle being waged between the National Football league and thousands of ex-players.

We address that litigation today because it is broadly relevant and instructive concerning a topic of national concern, namely, traumatic brain injury and the profound cognitive damage that can result from it.

More than 5,000 former NFL players say that the head hits they suffered while playing football have diminished them in later life and that league officials have known the risks and buried the evidence for decades.

The lawsuit playing out has gone through several distinct phases. Material terms were agreed to in a settlement executed early last year, but a federal judge nixed the deal after questioning the sufficiency of the money being offered by the NFL. League officials subsequently upped the ante, and the judge granted preliminary approval to the pact last July.

Although that obviously heightened anticipation that a finalized settlement was at close range, that hasn’t turned out to be the case. Just last week, U.S. District Judge Anita Brody put the agreement on extended hold yet again, stating that additional changes needed to be reflected in the pact already tentatively agreed to.

Those changes are explicitly player-protective and would require the NFL to come up with more money than the $765 million already allocated as a prerequisite to final judicial approval.

When the final terms are known, we will pass them along to readers.

Source: Bloomberg, “NFL’s $765 million concussion pact blocked as insufficient,” Sophia Pearson and Eben Novy-Williams, Feb. 2, 2015