The Slatest

NFL Admits One-Third of Players Will Suffer Brain Trauma

Former National Football League player Brent Boyd (C) rubs his head while sitting next to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (R) and Pro Football Hall of Fame player Willie Woods (2nd L) during a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee about football brain injuries on Capitol Hill October 28, 2009.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

After disputing evidence for years that retired players suffered a disproportionate amount of brain damage, the NFL has acknowledged in court documents that nearly a third of them will develop long-term cognitive problems, reports the New York Times. These problems are likely to emerge at “notably younger ages” than the rest of the population, according to data provided to a federal court by actuaries hired by the NFL.

“Our assumptions result in prevalence rates by age group that are materially higher than those expected in the general population,” according to the report.  


The Times says it amounts to “the league’s most unvarnished admission yet” that players will suffer brain damage at higher rates. But the lawyer representing the league says the findings are based on those players who have sued the league. “The methodology was purposely designed to err on the side of overestimating possible injuries to ensure that adequate funds would be available to pay all awards, under the then-capped settlement structure,” the lawyer wrote in an email. “The actuaries’ models do not reflect a prediction of the number of players who will suffer injuries.”

The reports were used as the foundation for calculating the compensation pool that was set up to cover lawsuits by retired players who say the league hid the long-term risks of concussions from them. In June, the NFL agreed to nix the cap as it made an open-ended commitment to pay cash awards to retired players who suffer numerous forms of brain damage.