By BARRY WILNER , AP Pro Football Writer
The first two claims in the NFL’s billion-dollar concussion settlement were announced Thursday, a total of $9 million in benefits.
The U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania overseeing the process was notified Thursday through a joint status report filed by the class and the NFL that the claims were approved. The names of the former players were not disclosed as part of the filings.
The payouts were for $5 million for a qualifying diagnosis of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), and $4 million for a qualifying diagnosis of CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy).
Those amounts mean that both individuals played a minimum of five NFL seasons and were diagnosed before their 45th birthdays.
Because CTE can only be diagnosed once someone has died, the player’s estate would be collecting that payout, approved on June 5. THE ALS claim was approved on May 26.
The claims process for monetary awards opened on March 23. There is also a baseline assessment program that launched on June 6.
Players who already have been diagnosed with ALS, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s or dementia are eligible for payments. The league has estimated that 6,000 former players — or nearly three in 10 — could develop Alzheimer’s disease or moderate dementia.
More than 14,500 class members out of a potential well above 20,000 have registered for benefits ahead of the Aug. 7 deadline. That can include former players or their families.
“We continue to be encouraged by the response from retired players and their families to the settlement, and are pleased that its vital benefits — including monetary payments — are now available,” said Christopher Seeger, co-lead class counsel for the retired NFL players. “We implore all class members, even those who may feel healthy today, to register before the Aug. 7 deadline so they can be eligible for the benefits they deserve.”
In addition to those class members who have filed or still could file, 146 had opted out of the settlement as of June 5, according to the filings.
Also as of June 5, the claims administrator had contracted with 67 qualified physicians in or near 49 of the 53 target cities closest to where the majority of living retired players reside. Those physicians will be making qualifying diagnoses for class members.
The baseline assessment program administrator has contracted with 141 qualified providers, including in 42 of the 53 target cities, to conduct such tests.
The lead plaintiff on the class-action lawsuit was former Patriots and Eagles fullback Kevin Turner. Researchers announced last year that Turner suffered from CTE to a degree that they had not seen for an athlete who died in his 40s.
In the lawsuit filed in Philadelphia, the league was accused of hiding what it knew about the link between concussions and CTE, the degenerative brain disease that has been found in dozens of former players after their deaths. Senior U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody approved the deal in 2015 after twice sending it back to lawyers over concerns the funds might run out.
The deal was upheld by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year.
The NFL admitted no fault as part of the settlement, though league official Jeffrey Miller did acknowledge during congressional testimony that there is a link between football and CTE.