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John Bair
John Bair
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The NFL Concussion Settlement: Make It Last

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Every week, millions of Americans tune in to watch their favorite football teams fight it out.  We cheer as Peyton Manning throws for 7 touchdowns, and cringe as David Wilson fumbles a carry…again.  It’s easy to think of these players as larger-than-life figures.  Then the stories start to come out:

  • 2005: Former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Terry Long commits suicide (aged 45)
  • 2006: Former Philadelphia Eagles defensive back Andre Waters commits suicide (aged 44)
  • 2008: Former Houston Oilers linebacker John Grimsley dies of an accidental gunshot wound (aged 45)
  • 2011: Former Phoenix Cardinals safety Dave Duerson commits suicide (aged 50)
  • 2012: Former Pittsburgh Steelers guard Ralph Wenzel dies as the result of dementia-related complications (aged 69)
  • 2012: Former Atlanta Falcons safety Ray Easterling commits suicide (aged 62)
  • 2012: Former New England Patriots linebacker Junior Seau commits suicide (aged 43)

What do these men have in common?  All suffered from neurodegenerative diseases as the result of repeated head trauma sustained during their professional careers.

At the end of August, the National Football League agreed to the largest settlement that any pro sports league has ever awarded its players for the long-term injuries they suffered while playing the sport.  The NFL will pay $765 million to assist those affected by Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), or similar neurological problems and to fund related research and education.  Unfortunately, that money may not last.

In a 2009 article, Sports Illustrated reported that nearly 80% of NFL players go bankrupt or face financial difficulties within the first two years of their retirement.  The authors contend that most of the athletes have little experience budgeting, and/or they trust the wrong people to manage that money and equate their experiences to those of lottery winners.

The reality is that when it comes to the concussion settlement, the players and their families will face the same issues that plague any other person who receives a large settlement:

  • Taxes and fees
  • Healthcare costs
  • Lending/giving money to loved ones
  • Risky investments
  • Spending to “treat” pain and anguish
  • Purchasing expensive items/property

The key—as it is with any client—is for the attorney use a trusted expert to coach the client about how to create a settlement plan.  That process of education is critical long before the settlement funds arrive.  It’s not just about investing the money properly—it is about ensuring that their medical needs will be covered, that the client reaps the benefits of potential tax advantages, and that they retain as much of the settlement as possible.  It is about bringing a trusted advisor in who will do what’s best for the injured player and who will make the process as easy as possible for all involved.

The settlement that these players and their families have fought for was intended to provide support them as they face the consequences of life-altering neurological injuries.  For the widows, it is meant to somehow compensate for their devastation.  It should last.

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