An article published in the scientific journal Brain reported on a study of brain samples taken from 85 people who had documented instances of repeated mild brain injury, including 33 who had played in the NFL. Eighty percent of brains studied showed evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E., a degenerative and incurable disease. Symptoms of C.T.E. are classified as Stages I-IV, with each stage representing progressively worse symptoms, ranging from headaches and difficulty in concentrating to dementia. According to the study:
Data on athletic exposure were available for 34 American football players; the stage of chronic traumatic encephalopathy correlated with increased duration of football play, survival after football and age at death.
Notably, the study focused on mild, repeated brain injuries, suggesting that the cumulative effects can have significant long-term consequences:
The current results establish that a distinctive pattern of neuropathological changes, previously reported primarily in boxers, can also be found in other athletes and military veterans and provide a clear impetus for future studies. . . .[T]his study clearly shows that for some athletes and war fighters, there may be severe and devastating long-term consequences of repetitive brain trauma that has traditionally been considered only mild.
The NFL Disability Plan now has a provision providing benefits to eligible players who have a permanent, neuro-cognitive impairment but are not receiving “Line of Duty” or T&P disability benefits or Pension Benefits under the Retirement Plan. It remains to be seen how the Plan will handle these claims and how many players will qualify.
Rosenthal Lurie LLC represents retired NFL players.