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Judge gives final approval for settlement in NFL concussion lawsuit

A federal judge has granted final approval of the settlement between the NFL and former players in their class-action concussion lawsuit.
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A federal judge has granted final approval of the settlement between the NFL and former players in the class-action concussion lawsuit first filed in 2011.

Players and family members of players who were diagnosed with certain medical conditions are eligible to receive compensation under the terms of settlement.

Judge Anita B. Brody issued preliminary approval of the settlement last year but requested several changes in February. 

Because the level of compensation depends on the recipients' age and NFL experience, the average payment is expected to be $190,000, according to the Los Angeles Times.

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Players diagnosed with ALS can receive a maximum of $5 million in compensation. Family members of players diagnosed with CTE can receive up to $4 million. Those with Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases are eligible to receive up to $3.5 million. Players with neurocognitive impairment can receive up to $3 million. 

The settlement also includes a $10 million education fund "to promote safety and injury prevention for football players of all ages, including youth football players." It covers those who played in the NFL's European league, too.

"Today, these courageous men and their families have made history," attorneys Christopher Seeger and Sol Weiss, co-lead counsel for the players, said in a statement. "Despite the difficult health situations retired players face today, and that many more will unfortunately face in the future, they can take comfort that this settlement's benefits will be available soon, and will last for decades to come."

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Weiss and Seeger said payments could begin as soon as this summer, if no appeals are filed. According to the New York Times, payments will not be made to players "until all appeals are exhausted."

In her 139-page opinion, Brody called the settlement "fair, reasonable and adequate." 

NFL general counsel Jeff Pash released the following statement

Today’s decision powerfully underscores the fairness and propriety of this historic settlement.  As a result of the settlement, retirees and their families will be eligible for prompt and substantial benefits and will avoid years of costly litigation that – as Judge Brody’s comprehensive opinion makes clear – would have an uncertain prospect of success.  We appreciate the careful supervision provided by Judge Brody, as well as the assistance provided by her appointees, former district judge Layn Phillips and Special Master Perry Golkin.  We look forward to implementing the terms of the settlement and continuing to work with our players, coaches and medical staffs to enhance the safety and benefits of football.

Concerns over head injuries in the NFL have grown in recent years. Many former players report suffering from memory loss and depression, likely caused by CTE, a brain disease shown to be linked to football-related head trauma. Several players, including Junior Seau and Dave Duerson, have committed suicide and shown signs of CTE. 

CTE can only be diagnosed with absolute certainty by examining a person's brain after they have died. Tony Dorsett and several other former NFL players took part in a UCLA study that attempted to find signs of the disease in living patients. 

- Dan Gartland