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Saturday, May 18, 2024 | Back issues
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New NFL Brain Injury Deal|Is Flawed, Doctors Say

PHILADEPHIA (CN) - The National Football League's narrow method of compensating players for concussions will leave many out, experts told a federal judge Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Anita Brody may consider such testimony in deciding the fate of an uncapped settlement for more than 20,000 retired players, representatives of deceased or incapacitated players, and close family members.

Though Brody granted the deal preliminary approval this past July, the Brain Injury Association of America outlined "several concerning aspects" of the deal and wants to file an amicus brief to help the court assess the settlement's fairness.

In support of its motion, the BIAA, which describes itself as "the nation's oldest and largest nationwide brain injury advocacy organization," submitted a joint declaration from its former board chair Gregory O'Shanick and Brent Masel, another medical doctor who authored the seminal paper, "Conceptualizing Brain Injury as a Chronic Disease."

They called the settlement's method of awarding damages to players "deeply flawed," and say that it "will eventually serve to exclude retired NFL players and limit their access to medical benefits and compensation."

A previous settlement offer that Brody had rejected capped the NFL's total payment obligation at $675 million, but the BIAA says awards under the new deal are still limited from player to player.

The tool used to measure such awards is called the Test of Premorbid Function, or TOPF, according to the BIAA filing.

TOPF determines a level of damage to a player's brain based on "a reading test that requires the subject to read a list of words and pronounce them 'exactly,'" the filing states.

It attempts to measure future damages, and awards higher damages to those who fare well on the test, the doctors said. They noted that a player who is able to repeat a phrase from the test with high accuracy, for example, would get more money than a player who cannot repeat the phrase.

"Thus, individuals who speak with a dialect or accent are at a disadvantage, as are individuals with TBI-related speech impairments like dysarthria," according to the declaration.

This method of measurement also leaves out problematic indications of memory, executive control, agitation and behavior, which would not be accounted for in a speech and reading test, the doctors said.

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