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NFL Settlement Over Concussions Is Given Final Approval By Judge

A judge has given a final OK to an agreement that settles injury claims by former NFL players against the league.

The settlement, which pays medical and other benefits to players who suffered concussions and related injuries, could cost the NFL up to $1 billion over 65 years, the AP reports.

The wire service adds:

"The NFL expects 6,000 of nearly 20,000 retired players to suffer from Alzheimer's disease or moderate dementia someday. The settlement approved Wednesday by a federal judge in Philadelphia would pay them about $190,000 on average.

"The awards could reach $1million to $5 million for those diagnosed in their 30s and 40s with Parkinson's disease or Lou Gehrig's disease, or for deaths involving chronic brain trauma.

"The league has been dogged for years by complaints that it long hid the risks of repeated concussions in order to return players to the field."

The former players and the NFL first reached an agreement in the summer of 2013. A year later, a judge rejected the $765 million deal saying she feared it was not big enough to cover all retired NFL players.

The New York Times reports that under the settlement approved today, there is no monetary cap on the damages that will be paid or how much can be spent on medical monitoring.

The Times reports:

"As part of the deal, the N.F.L. insisted that all retired players — not just the 5,000 or so who sued the league — be covered by the settlement as a way to fend off lawsuits in the future. But about 200 players opted out of the settlement to preserve their right to continue fighting the league.

"Critics of the settlement said that the number and variety of diseases covered by the deal was too small, and that many players would receive only a fraction of the multimillion-dollar payouts promised by the league after their age and years in the N.F.L. were considered. They also contended that the settlement needed to acknowledge more classes of plaintiffs, not only those with diagnosable diseases and those without them."

In a statement, Christopher Seeger and Sol Weiss, co-lead counsel for the retired NFL player plaintiffs, said that most former players had approved of the plan.

About 200 players opted out of the deal and if they raise no further objections, Seeger and Weiss said, the money from the deal could be disbursed as soon as this summer.

"If any objector appeals the final approval order, however, no benefits will become available until this process is exhausted – which will take months, if not years to resolve," Seeger and Weiss said.

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Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.