NFL settlement for concussions not enough to mitigate such injuries

After nearly 20 seasons as an NFL linebacker, 43-year-old Junior Seau committed suicide in his California home last year to the shock of not only football fanatics, but even those who didn’t follow his Pro Bowl career.

His premature death, and subsequent examination for possible brain trauma, also left questions: Had the NFL known about his since-revealed run-ins with concussions? And had the league been knowingly hiding knowledge from the public eye regarding the rates of players diagnosed with neurological problems primarily caused by repeated head trauma?

This past week, Seau’s family, along with more than 4,500 other former NFL players and their families, reached a landmark settlement of $765 million with the league. Although the league met its financial responsibility to former players, its moral commitment to future generations is far from over.

In this handshake, the NFL was not required to admit any wrong doing; in fact, the most popular sports league in the country has emphatically denied all allegations that league officials told doctors to keep quiet about concussed players, sending them back in the game and idolizing their never-quit mentality.

Athletes in such a violent sport should prepare for — and even expect — these types of injuries to occur, and they should also expect the league to compensate them in some way.

Reports say the group of former players wanted compensation close to the $2 billion range, but rather than endure a long, drawn-out, risky case, both parties managed to settle at $765 million, including $675 for the 18,000 former players and their families, $75 million for baseline medical exams and $10 million to establish a research fund.

Although this class settlement is unprecedented in the world of major U.S. sports, the gap isn’t filled when one of the most profitable organizations — taking in $10 billion in revenue annually — throws millions of dollars at its plaintiffs.

Both sides came out victorious, but this settlement overlooks youth, many of who look up to professionals as they try to follow in their footsteps. We live in a culture in which an athlete’s ability to return to action quickly after a highlight-reel, bone-jarring hit is glorified. We live in a culture where these scenarios are replicated Friday nights across the nation, far more than we hear about or will ever know.

The league only denoted a small amount — less than $10 million — of the settlement for education.

What the league doesn’t understand is that there’s a trickle-down effect occurring, which starts at the top of the pyramid — with the players — and trickles down to the fans and future athletes.

What’s clear is that it’s time for league officials to start using their heads, for the health and well-being of tomorrow’s Junior Seaus.