US & Canada

NFL concussion lawsuit settlement approved

Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker Anthony Spencer (left) sacked Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, in Landover, Maryland, on 30 December 2012 Image copyright AP
Image caption Studies have linked repeated concussions with with symptoms including memory loss and mood swings

A federal judge has approved a settlement that would see thousands of former US football players compensated for concussion-related injuries.

The ruling comes nearly two weeks after the National Football League (NFL) agreed to remove a cap on compensation for players who say the league hid the dangers of head trauma.

More than 4,500 former players had sued the league, initially reaching a $765m (£490m) settlement last August.

That deal was rejected in January.

On Monday, Judge Anita Brody granted preliminary approval to a new deal removing a $675m cap on damages.

She had previously rejected a settlement deal, doubting the capped compensation could cover 20,000 now-retired players.

"This is an extraordinary settlement for retired NFL players and their families - from those who suffer with neuro-cognitive illnesses today, to those who are currently healthy but fear they may develop symptoms decades into the future," plaintiffs' lawyers Sol Weiss and Christopher Seeger wrote in a statement.

Neurological symptoms

A revised settlement agreement filed in Judge Brody's federal district court in Philadelphia on 25 June also removes a provision barring anyone who receives concussion-related damages from suing amateur football leagues.

The initial settlement between the NFL and the players provided $675m in compensation for players with neurological symptoms, $10m for education and medical research, and $75m for testing.

That deal was designed to last at least 65 years and to protect players who develop dementia or neurological problems related to concussions suffered during their professional football careers.

Helmet-to-helmet impacts are common in American football as strong, heavy and fast-moving players collide.

Studies have linked repeated concussions with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a disease with symptoms including memory loss and mood swings.

Critics of the deal have argued that, with $10bn in annual revenue, the NFL is getting off lightly under the settlement agreement.

Plaintiffs' lawyers, meanwhile, have argued settling the case avoids a protracted legal battle.

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