The Pro Football Concussion Report

A Fan's Look at Head Injuries and the Concussion Crisis in Football

What if? NFL Concussion Settlement as a Unique Insurance Policy

1940's Insurance Ad


The NFL concussion settlement has been criticized harshly by many members of the media, particularly in that it allows the NFL to maintain its secrecy about its scientific panels and also the perceived low total dollar amount of the available compensation. While the media is disappointed, it remains to be seen what the reaction is from the more than 4,400 former player plaintiffs. A perspective of the settlement that can only be realized in the future is that much of the compensation actually sits there as a type of health or life insurance against severe cognitive illness.

NFL players have already been shown to be 3 times more likely to develop neurodegenerative diseases than the general population. Given that prognosis, try going to buy health or life insurance as a former NFL player that will pay future claims based on a diagnosis of ALS, Parkinson’s  or Alzheimer’s. If the NFL has been hesitant to admit that football can result in longterm neurocognitive diseases, insurance companies holding policies against that result will only be too happy to make the connection. Either through policy exclusions, pre-existing conditions or legally challenging the NFL’s alleged cover-up of scientific information, in the future the insurance industry will likely try to minimize responsibility for paying head injury claims of former NFL players.

This is probably where the most valuable benefit of the negotiated settlement comes in. As it’s been explained and if the plan is executed properly (big “if” there), all former NFL players will have a type of high payout insurance against ALS, Parkinson’s, dementia and Alzheimer’s. No contracts, no exclusions, no premiums – all they have to do is to have played in the NFL. That’s not like insurance any of us can get for anything. Particularly for something that we’re 3x more likely to get than the rest of the population. (The settlement benefits were negotiated to cover not only the plaintiffs, but also the additional estimated 14,000 former NFL players.)

The settlement has its serious flaws – none of the Pellman-Tagliabue connection will be explored (at least not with the NFL’s cooperation), most of the players currently suing will receive no immediate monetary compensation, and we may never get to see Commissioner Roger Goodell apologize for anything, ever. But for the many players who have to try and get to sleep at night worrying that some day they may wake up with beginning symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, the settlement can be some small piece of mind. Sound like an insurance ad? In this case, it’s not a terrible deal.


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