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Work comp and awareness of injury: football concussions issue

A federal judge has refused to grant preliminary approval to a proposed settlement between the National Football League and retired players to resolve head-injury claims.

The judge said she had concerns that the amount of money on the table -- $765 million - would be enough to adequately cover the medical care needed by up to 20,000 former players.

It's the type of case that, beneath the surface glitz provided by retired NFL stars, provides an occasion to discuss a basic component of workers' compensation law: the presence of an injury.

When a work comp case involves a scaffolding collapse, a ladder fall, or some other obvious injury scenario, the first step is pretty clear. That step is to get good medical care.

The same is true for many football injuries, namely the type that are clearly linked to a particular play.

With brain injuries, however, such as those suffered by football players due to repeated, low-grade concussions, the immediate damage is not so clear. Once an NFL player passes the league's standard protocol to check for concussion symptoms, there may appear to be no actual injury involved.

The weight of the evidence of recent years, however, suggests a much darker possibility. This possibility is that cumulative head trauma will eventually manifest itself in very serious conditions, including depression and dementia.

That is why some commentators believe that football players should consider the possible role of workers' compensation filings. After all, as we noted in our September 27 post in 2012, workers' comp law has broad applicability even to the NFL.

Source: Chicago's Real Law Blog, "Every NFL player should file a workers' compensation claim the day they retire," Michael Helfland, Jan. 15, 2014

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