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Steinberg: NFL concussion settlement offers hope for reform

Steinberg Says

August 29, 2013|By Leigh Steinberg

Earlier today, Senior U.S. District Judge Anita Brody announced in Philadelphia that the NFL and 4,500 former players had reached a settlement in the lawsuit accusing the NFL of not warning players of the risk and suppressing studies that showed damage to players.

I have written for months that this suit would never see the trial courtroom. This is because the NFL would have been compelled to reveal information that might have shown they knew of the risk involved with concussions and willingly chose to hide it from their own players.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell deserves praise for finally acknowledging through the settlement that the NFL has an obligation to try to protect the health and safety of players. He didn't create the years of denial on this issue, and has been part of the solution.

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It has been reported, the NFL has reached a tentative $765 million settlement over concussion-related brain injuries among its 18,000 retired players, agreeing to compensate victims, pay for medical exams and underwrite research.

Full details are yet to come, but financial relief will be distributed to former players that will help them deal with the consequences of these hits.

Perhaps the most significant consequence of the settlement is that it frees the NFL to be more active on this issue.

I have called concussion injury a ticking time bomb and undiagnosed health epidemic for years. Each play starts with an offensive lineman hitting a defensive lineman — an act that can produce a low-level concussive episode. These are never diagnosed nor recorded.

A lineman who plays in high school, collegiate and professional football may leave the game with 10,000 of these sub-concussive hits, with aggregate damage more consequential than three knockout blows. This knowledge presents a proximate threat to football as it is now played.

The concussion litigation put the NFL under a microscope and made them view reform in light of how it exposed their liability for the past. Now the NFL is free to aggressively address this issue.

The first avenue of attack is prevention. This involves teaching players from an early age to avoid using the head and neck in blocking and tackling. Aggressive enforcement of rules is necessary.

More funding is needed to explore prophylactic medicines that can prepare the brain to resist the hit.

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