By Ken Reed

The lawyers and accountants of NFL franchises — not to mention the team owners themselves — are undoubtedly smiling ear-to-ear these days because the league’s financial liability risk related to the brain trauma and concussion issue has dropped considerably the last couple months.

Back in August, the league agreed to a $765 million settlement with 4,500+ former players who had sued the league over a variety of neurological conditions they were experiencing related to concussions and sub-concussive brain trauma from repetitive blows to the the head during their playing days. The deal was widely-viewed as a bargain for the NFL by legal analysts considering the severity of the brain injuries and the negative PR the concussion issue has brought to the league. Many observers were expecting a multi-billion dollar outcome for that case.

Earlier this month, the NFL secured another victory on the brain trauma front. California Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation that significantly limits workers’ compensation claims by professional athletes.

According to Ken Bensinger and Marc Lifsher, writing in the Los Angeles Times, the legislative win in California could be a bigger victory for the NFL than the league’s settlement of the former players’ lawsuit.

“The NFL’s legislative win in Sacramento could be far more valuable over the long-term. It allows the league to sidestep exposure to thousands of serious head and brain trauma claims by out-of-state players who are no longer eligible to file in California,” wrote Bensinger and Lifsher.

These wins by the NFL are losses for our society as a whole. The settlement with the former players will close the books on a lot of what the NFL knew and when the league knew it. A lot of valuable knowledge regarding brain trauma and concussions won’t see the light of day now. The legislation signed by Gov. Brown in California establishes a dangerous precedent that could one day lead to additional legislation that negatively impacts workers in industries besides professional sports.

“It’s a sellout to the billionaire owners” of professional teams, said Melissa Brown, a workers’ compensation attorney in Sacramento. “Players are suffering these terrible injuries, especially the older ones. They are going to be without a remedy.”

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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