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What price a football player’s mind?

  Junior Seau with the New England Patriots in 2008. After the linebacker committed suicide in 2012, an autopsy found that he had suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a kind of dementia linked to concussions.

Junior Seau with the New England Patriots in 2008. After the linebacker committed suicide in 2012, an autopsy found that he had suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a kind of dementia linked to concussions.

A judge has cleared the way for a more-than-$1 billion settlement between the NFL and some 6,000 players who could develop neurological problems from the concussive aspects of the game over the next 65 years.

While some individuals in their 30s and 40s with Parkinson’s or Lou Gehrig’s disease could get between $1 million and $5 million, the average settlement would be $190,000. As anyone who has cared for someone with dementia will tell you, $190,000 is a drop in the bucket. Not everyone, however, is sympathetic.

“This is the player’s decision to play this game and they are already making an absurd amount of money, even sitting on the bench,” Nick Keener of Lock Haven, Pa. posted on ESPN. “If they ran out of money after they are done playing, then that's their fault.”

“What about the guys who played back in the ’60s and ’70s that made just enough to get by with the offseason grocery store job?” Thomas Sanabia of Queens wondered on the same thread. “NFL players only recently became super rich. They weren't making anywhere near this amount for most of the people suing.”

“The NFL got off so good here it’s not even funny,” Zulfan Bakri added, “considering that their current TV DEAL is worth $3 BILLION per year. This is a drop in the bucket compared with what they should have paid for long-term pain treatment and care. It should be 10 x that because in 20-30 years when the current players are going thru the horrors now the costs will be thru the roof.”

I’m afraid I’m with Bakri on this. It’s true that occupations have hazards, and violent occupations have violent hazards. But I have to assume that years ago few understood the relationship between sports and neurological problems (although the movies have sometimes portrayed a punch-drunk boxer for pathos or comic relief). These men signed on for busted knees not busted brains. The very willingness of the NFL to agree to the settlement suggests the league thinks it dodged a bullet. It admits no responsibility and is probably hoping the whole issue will be swept under the rug.

But not so fast. This, too, from the ESPN article:

“About 200 NFL retirees or their families have rejected the settlement and plan to sue the league individually. They include the family of Junior Seau, the popular Hall of Famer who killed himself at his San Diego-area home in 2012 after several years of increasingly erratic behavior. An autopsy showed he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE (a form of dementia).”

Something tells me the NFL’s problems are just beginning.