Nearly three in ten ex-NFL players develop neurocognitive problems, data says
Nearly three in 10 former NFL players will develop at least moderate neurocognitive problems and qualify for payments under the, according to data prepared for ex-players’ lawyers and made public on Friday.
Their actuary expects 14% of all former football players to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and another 14% to develop moderate dementia over the next 65 years, according to the data. There are more than 19,000 former players still living, meaning nearly 6,000 of them will fall into those two groups.
Another 31 men will be diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease and 24 with Parkinson’s disease during their lives, according to the data.
The actuary estimated that ex-players were at twice the risk for Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease and dementia as the general population between the ages of 20 to 60. After that, they estimated the ex-players’ risk would be closer to normal.
Friday’s release of the actuarial data is designed to address some complaints raised so far. Critics lament that the settlement plan offers no awards to anyone diagnosed with CTE in the future, and that the Alzheimer’s and dementia awards are cut by 75% for players who also suffered strokes.
The report was prepared for senior US district judge Anita B Brody, who is presiding over that accuses the NFL of hiding information that linked concussions to brain injuries.
The also predicted that 28% of all retired players will qualify for an award, while estimating rates for some illnesses will be at a far greater rate than the general population and strike much earlier in life.
The proposed settlement, $75m for baseline assessments, $10m for research and $5m for public notice. It would not cover current players.
Both sides have to cover awards for 21,000 former players, given fund earnings estimated at 4.5% annually. Brody initially had concerns the money might run out, while critics complained the NFL’s offering is a pittance given its $10bn in annual revenues.
The league agreed this summer to remove the cap on its contributions, saying it would pay out more than $675m if needed, and pay more over time if needed. Brody then granted preliminary approval of the plan and scheduled a fairness hearing on the proposed settlement for 19 November, when critics can challenge the parties on their calculations or award scheme.
Lawyers for some players have complained that the negotiations have been cloaked in secrecy, leaving them unsure of whether their clients should participate or opt out by next month’s deadline.
With an 14 October looming, “we still lack ‘an informed understanding of the dynamics of the settlement discussions and negotiations’. Indeed, we have zippo understanding,” lawyer Thomas A Demetrio, who represents the family of Dave Duerson, wrote in a motion on Thursday. Duerson, the popular Chicago Bears safety, killed himself in 2011.
The family of former linebacker Junior Seau, who also killed himself, has announced plans to opt out. He and Duerson are among about 60 former players diagnosed after their deaths with the brain decay known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Known as CTE, it can only be diagnosed after death.
The plan would pay up to $5m for players with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease; $4m for deaths involving CTE; $3.5m for Alzheimer’s disease; and $3m for moderate dementia and other neurocognitive problems.
However, only men under 45 who spent at least five years in the league would get those maximum payouts. The awards are reduced, on a sliding scale, if they played fewer years or were diagnosed at a more advanced age.
The players’ data therefore predicts the average payouts, in today’s dollars, to be $2.1m for ALS, $1.4m for a death involving CTE, and $190,000 for Alzheimer’s disease or moderate dementia. The average ex-player being diagnosed with moderate dementia is expected to be 77 with four years in the NFL.
About 28% of all retired players are expected to be diagnosed with a neurocognitive injury that is eligible for compensation under the plan. But only 60% of them are expected to seek awards, based on prior class-action litigation.
The 21,000 class members include 19,400 living men and the estates of 1,700 others.