NFL: Will 1 in 4 Players Really End Up With a Brain Injury?

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As the NFL continues to battle against the latest round of PR fallout, courtesy of its ham-handed response to #DeflateGate, more news has surfaced regarding the league’s ongoing spat with former players about the physical effects that playing football can have on the brain. Specifically, a study has surfaced that estimates “14 percent of all former players to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and another 14 percent to develop moderate dementia over the next 65 years.”

Now, before the dog whistles come out, it’s important to note where this data is coming from — an actuary hired by the former players involved in a lawsuit against the league. That doesn’t necessarily mean that their information should be disregarded immediately, since it was gathered for the presiding judge, Anita Brody, who had given the settlement between the players and the league the OK earlier this year, after the NFL had agreed to lift a fiscal cap on the amount they’d pay in damages.

“A class action settlement that offers prompt relief is superior to the likely alternative — years of expensive, difficult, and uncertain litigation, with no assurance of recovery,” the judge wrote at the time. Under the current payment system, and with some back-of-the-envelope math, that means that the 6,000 estimated players who would be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s would be paid roughly of $80 million all together, while the 6,000 who would ‘only’ be diagnosed with dementia would be paid about $150,000.

Patrick Smith/Getty Images
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

A fairness hearing, where critics from either side of the lawsuit can offer suggestions and critiques on the current system, is scheduled to be held in November. According to The Associated Press, the NFL said that its own numbers “were ‘reasonable and conservative,’ and erred on the side of ‘overstating the number of players who will develop (illnesses)’ to ensure the fund would be sufficient.”

It’s worth noting, then, that the NFL and the information obtained by the players’ actuary do not seem to be particularly far off from each other. While the league won’t come out and say it, it appears that playing football at the highest professional level seems to be bad for your mental health.