Back in September, I wrote about the financial challenges faced by a startling majority of former NFL players, citing a 2009 Sports Illustrated article that claimed nearly 80% of former NFL players go bankrupt or face financial difficulties in the first two years after retirement. My post coincided with a proposed $765M settlement (which has since been denied) for thousands of retired NFL players who have sustained lifelong injuries as the result of repeated head trauma.
These men, who retire at an age that is chronologically much younger than the retirement age of most other professions (though arguably, by the time they retire, they have the bodies of men twice their age), suffer from symptoms consistent with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). The CTE Center at Boston University identifies these symptoms, caused by progressive degeneration of the brain, as: memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, anxiety, suicidality, parkinsonism, and progressive dementia. Many of these players have been left with severe, life-altering brain injuries.
How Much Money Do They Really Have?
Despite the popularly held belief that retired football players have the money and resources to take care of themselves, they are as much in need of trustworthy advisors as any other individual who receives a settlement recovery. If the Sports Illustrated article proved anything, it’s that high-earners in the public eye often lose their fortune quickly, whether it’s through lavish spending, poor investment advice, or gifting it to family and friends.
Moreover, while it’s common to see players these days signing $10 million contracts, NFL retirement is a different story. Take Hall of Famer Joe DeLamielleure, for example. DeLamielleure played 13 seasons as a guard in the late 1970s – mid 1980s. Diagnosed with CTE, he currently receives a $28,000 a year pension and supplemental “Legacy Fund” payment from the NFL, while relying on his wife’s health insurance to cover testing and treatment for CTE.
When the lawsuit has finally settled, what will become of the thousands of retired players like DeLamielleure? The hope is that their attorneys will refer them to reputable advisors who are skilled in making recommendations specifically for those who receive settlements. Some players may have immediate medical needs, while others want to set money aside for future medical care. Still other claimants, sadly, are the families of players who have passed away. These families may want to create trusts for children and grandchildren, or honor their loved ones’ legacies in another way.
Regardless of the situation, all efforts must be made to ensure that the settlement recovery lasts long enough to take care of the injured parties and their families. CTE-related injuries have taken away the players’ livelihoods and for the families, CTE has taken away fathers, sons and brothers. These people deserve to see justice, both in the lawsuit, and in the settlement.
A West Point graduate where he served as captain and military aviator, John Bair continues his commitment to our country through his efforts within the settlement planning industry. He has represented families of victims lost in the Flight 3407 crash, offered pro bono services to the families of 9/11 victims and drafted the first consumer protection bill for plaintiffs (H.R. 3699).