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NFL and players reach $765 million settlement over head injuries

4:17 PM, Aug 29, 2013   |    comments
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Matt Rourke / AP Former NFL player Dorsey Levens speaks during a news conference Tuesday, April 9, 2013, in Philadelphia, after a hearing to determine whether the NFL faces years of litigation over concussion-related brain injuries. Thousands of former players have accused league officials of concealing what they knew about the risk of playing after a concussion. The lawsuits allege the league glorified violence as the game became a $9 billion-a-year industry.

The National Football League has agreed to pay $765 million to settle lawsuits by former players over head injuries, it was announced Thursday.

The proposed agreement, which was hashed out during court-ordered mediation, will dedicate $675 million to a compensation fund for retired players who can show they have severe cognitive impairment, dementia, Alzheimer's or Lou Gehrig's disease.

The amount each player gets will be determined by doctors and court administrators, and players can apply for more funds if their condition deteriorates over time. 

The settlement covers dozens of lawsuits filed by more than 4,500 ex-players who accused the league of glorifying the violence of the sport while ignoring the health risks and failing to warn players that repeated concussions could cause brain damage or leave them prone to depression and suicide.

The litigation included the deaths of former San Diego Charger Junior Seau and ex-Atlanta Falcon Ray Esterling, who killed themselves in 2012, and Dave Duerson, the former Chicago Bear who committed suicide in 2011.

Kevin Turner, a former Philadelphia Eagles running back who has Lou Gehrig's disease - also known as ALS - said he is "grateful that the NFL is making a commitment to the men who made the game what it is today."

The NFL, which has denied misleading players about the dangers of the game, will not admit any wrongdoing under the agreement, which must be approved by a federal judge.

The mediator, former federal judge Layn Phillips, called it a "win-win" for all involved.

"The alternative was for the two sides to spend the next 10 years and millions of dollars on litigation, which would have been great for lawyers, expert witnesses, trial consultants and others," Phillips said in a statement.

"But it would not do much for retired players and their families, who are in need. This resolution allows both sides to join together, do something constructive and build a better game for the future."

NFL Executive Vice President Jeffrey Pash said the agreement was an effort to "do the right thing."

"This is an important step that builds on the significant changes we've made in recent years to make the game safer, and we will continue our work to better the long term health and well-being of NFL players," he said in a statement.

In recent years, the NFL has instituted rule changes to cut down on neck and head hits and keep players with concussions off the field.

The plaintiffs also sued helmet maker Riddell, but that dispute has not been settled.

The NCAA, meanwhile, is still trying to negotiate a deal to settle a separate case that could involve thousands of college athletes.

NBC News

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