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Judges To Hear Appeal Over NFL's Concussion Lawsuit Settlement


All right. This is an important day for thousands of former NFL players who are waiting to get compensated for brain damage they suffered on the job. Payments from a massive concussion lawsuit settlement have been on hold for months since a small group of players appealed the settlement. Today in Philadelphia, a three-judge panel will hear arguments for and against that appeal, as NPR's Tom Goldman reports.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: In late April, a federal judge approved the estimated $1 billion settlement in a lawsuit filed by former players against the NFL. It provides payments to men with medical conditions linked to football-related brain trauma - conditions such as ALS, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, dementia. For many of the more than 20,000 plaintiffs, especially older retirees, the money's critical. Here's one of the star plaintiffs in the lawsuit, former Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon in a 2012 interview.

JIM MCMAHON: You know, these guys are in dire needs, both financially and in their health. I didn't make a lot of money in the '80s, so you know what these guys made.

GOLDMAN: But the payments and the neurological testing for players also guaranteed in the settlement are on hold for the life of the appeal. The 94 people appealing say the settlement doesn't compensate those who developed chronic traumatic encephalopathy during their lifetimes. CTE is a degenerative brain disease that's made headlines in recent years. Prominent players who committed suicide, such as Junior Seau and Dave Duerson had CTE. Currently, CTE can only be diagnosed after death, so it's impossible to compensate players who are still alive. But plaintiffs note the settlement does pay players who display symptoms associated with CTE. The three judges are expected to make a decision on the appeal sometime next year. Tom Goldman, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on NPR.org.