The National Football League (NFL) has agreed to pay $765 million to 4,500 players and their families who accused the league of hiding information about the long-term dangers of repeated hits to the head. This decision comes as an increasing amount of scientific evidence shows that multiple concussions can lead to permanent brain damage.
Over the past several years, dozens of former players have been diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E. This degenerative disease is similar to Alzheimer's, with symptoms that range from dementia to behavioral changes to possibly ALS or Lou Gherig's disease. Scientists have found that within seconds of a blow to the head, brain cells can shut down, setting the stage for potential complications later in life.
Traditionally, concussions were thought of as a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI), but doctors and researchers now say that no brain injury is mild. Professional athletes aren't the only ones at risk: recent studies show that after 30 years, just one concussion can affect reaction time, attention span, and memory. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 173,000 teenagers and children are treated in U.S. emergency rooms every year for brain injuries like concussions. The Pennsylvania State Senate passed concussion-related laws a few years ago aimed at protecting young athletes from TBIs.
The NFL settlement money will be used for medical exams, concussion-related compensation, and medical research. The most publicized case of C.T.E. involved Junior Seau, a former linebacker who committed suicide last year.