Navigating the NFL Settlement Agreement for Former Players with Brain Injuries

NFL settlement agreement CTE

Many former National Football League (NFL) players have suffered from symptoms of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive brain condition that is caused by repeated blows to the head and multiple concussions. Following extensive litigation concerning the NFL’s liability for not recognizing the risk of CTE to its players and failing to take measures to prevent these injuries, a class action settlement agreement was reached in 2014, with a fund set up to pay claims to eligible recipients. As of November 22, 2021, 1,367 awards have been paid, totaling $938.2 million, or about $686,346 per recipient. 

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)

CTE, which is alternately known as punch drunk syndrome or dementia pugilistica, occurs gradually over several years following repeated head strikes. It includes symptoms such as:

  • Short-term memory loss
  • Changes in mood, mood swings, depression and/or anxiety
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Difficulty thinking or processing information
  • Slurred speech 
  • Tremors or muscle stiffness
  • Difficulty eating or swallowing

Diagnosis and Treatment

A definitive diagnosis of CTE can only be made post-mortem through brain tissue analysis. Researchers are working to develop a conclusive way to diagnose CTE while the afflicted person is still alive. There is no cure for the condition, with only supportive treatments available, such as behavioral therapy to deal with mood swings; pain management therapy, including medication and acupuncture; and memory exercises. 

NFL Concussion Settlement

Plaintiffs sued the NFL and NFL Properties LLC, claiming that former NFL players suffered head trauma or injuries during their NFL careers that caused or may cause long-term neurological problems. The plaintiffs claimed the NFL parties were aware of the risks and evidence associated with repetitive traumatic brain injuries but failed to warn and protect the players against those risks. Without admitting wrongdoing, the NFL parties entered into a settlement agreement with the plaintiffs that ended the litigation. The settlement agreement includes the following: 

  • A $75 million Baseline Assessment Program, which provides eligible former players with evaluations of their neurological and neuropsychological functioning. This assessment is necessary to determine eligibility for monetary compensation for CTE or CTE-related conditions
  • An uncapped Monetary Award Fund with a 65-year term to pay claims to eligible former players

The court appointed neutral settlement administrators to administer the program and determine the payment of monetary awards. Oversight of the process is being undertaken by a special master appointed by the court.

Who Is Eligible Under the Settlement

The settlement agreement includes all players who had played at least one half-season and retired from the NFL before July 7, 2014. In order to pursue their own lawsuit, former players were required to opt out of the settlement program by October 14, 2014. All claims made afterward are automatically bound by the settlement program. Former NFL players had until August 7, 2017 to register as a claimant with the settlement administrator.

Awards are based on the former player’s qualifying diagnosis as well as other factors, such as seasons played in the NFL and age at diagnosis. Qualifying diagnoses include Level 1.5 Neurocognitive Impairment (early dementia), Level 2 Neurocognitive Impairment (moderate dementia), Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and death with a CTE diagnosis.

Consult Legal Counsel

The assistance of legal counsel is advised to help claimants navigate the complicated settlement program. Strict deadlines must be followed and voluminous information must be supplied in order to qualify for compensation.

Our lawyers have the knowledge and experience to assist you in navigating the settlement program to receive compensation for injuries suffered by you or a loved one. If you are having problems with a current claim or are making a new one, feel to contact us to receive the assistance you need.

Contact us today for a free consultation.



Evan S. Schwartz
Founder of Schwartz, Conroy & Hack