Scooby Axson
Monday July 8th, 2013

Concussions are a major point in player safety in the National Football League. (Photo by the Washington Post) Concussions are a major point in player safety in the National Football League. (Photo by the Washington Post)

National Football League retirees who want the right to sue the league over concussion-related injuries will have to first go through mediation with a retired U.S. District Judge, reports the Associated Press.

The NFL says those claims fall under the collective bargaining agreement, and should be resolved in arbitration.

Retired U.S. District Judge Layn Phillips of Oklahoma will oversee the mediation process.

U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody of Philadelphia was originally supposed to rule on the case July 22. More than 4,200 former players are suing the league claiming that the game contributes to long-term health effects such as dementia and memory loss.

"We respect and will comply with the court's order regarding mediation and will be available to meet with Judge Phillips at his direction," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in a statement.

More from the AP:

Phillips is to report back to Brody on any progress by Sept. 3. Brody also implemented a gag order on lawyers for both sides.

Many former players say they suffer from dementia, Alzheimer's disease and other neurological conditions and believe they stem from on-field concussions. The league says safety has always been a top priority.

Each side hired a powerful Washington litigator to make its case to Brody during arguments in April.

NFL lawyer Paul Clement argued that teams bear the chief responsibility for health and safety under the contract, along with the players' union and the players themselves. "The clubs are the ones who had doctors on the sidelines who had primary responsibility for sending players back into the game," Clement said after the hearing.

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