Brain injury group: Concussion award scheme flawed

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A national brain injury group has condemned the proposed payout scheme for NFL concussion claims as "deeply flawed," saying it excludes many former players suffering from mood swings, depression, aggression and other related problems.

The Brain Injury Association of America said the plan favors former players with memory problems and certain neuromuscular diseases but leaves out those with other symptoms that can stem from brain trauma.

"Many of the physical, neurological and neurobehavioral consequences of TBI (traumatic brain injury) are missing from the list of qualifying diagnoses," the association said in a court filing on Tuesday. "The settlement's approach ... is deeply flawed."

The group asked to file an amicus brief and weigh in when a federal judge in Philadelphia reviews the settlement plan in November. Senior U.S. District Judge Anita Brody has granted preliminary approval of the plan, which would settle thousands of lawsuits filed against the league.

The NFL disclosed this month that it expects nearly three in 10 former players, or 6,000 men, to develop debilitating brain conditions. The league's experts predicted they will be stricken earlier and at least twice as often as the general population.

The NFL has agreed to create a $675 million fund, and more if needed, to pay out claims for the next 65 years. Current players are not included in the litigation.

Most of the money would go to former players under age 45 diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease or dementia.

The payouts would be sharply reduced as the ex-players age, or if they played fewer than five years in the league, based on assumptions that their injuries are less likely to stem from NFL concussions.

The Brain Injury Association faults the logic of that plan, arguing that players can suffer severe concussions in their rookie years.

"The sole factor in determining monetary awards should be the nature and extent of the impairment," Drs. Brent E. Masel, the association's medical director, and Gregory J. O'Shanick, his predecessor, wrote in court papers.

Lawyer Christopher Seeger, co-lead class counsel for the players, called the agreement "an extraordinary settlement for retired NFL players and their families."

"Our focus remains on finalizing this agreement so that former NFL players can soon begin taking advantage of its benefits," he said Tuesday.

His experts expect the average payouts, in today's dollars, to be $2.1 million for Lou Gehrig's disease, $1.4 million for a death involving the brain decay known as CTE and $190,000 for Alzheimer's disease or moderate dementia. An award potentially reaches $5 million.

Some players have signaled plans to opt out, including the family of the late San Diego star Junior Seau, who was found after his 2012 suicide, at age 43, to have had CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

The agreement would cover all 21,000 former players, unless they opt out by next month.

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