On April 24, 2019, a group of former NFL players challenged newly adopted medical rules in the ongoing NFL concussion settlement. As we have previously reported, in April 2015, Judge Brody approved a settlement between the NFL and almost 22,000 former players. The settlement established a 65-year uncapped monetary fund for players who could prove certain neurological diagnoses. The settlement provided a $75 million “baseline assessment program” that provided eligible retired players with neurological examinations, a $10 million education fund to promote safety and injury prevention in youth football, and to inform retired players of their medical benefits. Lastly, the settlement offered payments ranging from $1.5 million to $5 million for each player, or the player’s estate, who suffered from a serious degenerative condition in connection with a traumatic brain injury.
Now the players argue that some of the newly adopted medical rules, required in order to prove certain neurological diagnoses, only benefit the NFL and were approved without giving the former NFL players a chance to review them. Specifically, the players argue that Rule 9 (150-mile rule for MAF exams) and Rule 10(b) (50-mile rule for neuropsychological exams) should not be mandatory provisions.
Allegedly, the implementation of Rule 9 and Rule 10(b) were meant to serve the goal of “(s)afeguarding the integrity of the claims process [and] implementing the settlement with honor.” However, according to the players, appropriate safeguards to ensure the integrity of program are already in place. Thus, mandatory miles restrictions imposed by Rules 9 and 10(b) were simply unnecessary.
According to the players, there are many valid reasons why a player may be willing to travel more than 150 miles to see a particular qualified physician. Absent fraud, there is no reason to question why a former NFL player’s decided to be examined by a qualified physician, regardless if the qualified physician’s office is located within a specified radius of a former NFL player’s residence. Rather, the focus needs to be on the accuracy of the diagnosis. According to the players, there is simply no evidence that the accuracy of a diagnosis correlates to the distance traveled by a former NFL player.