NCAA Reaches Settlement, Offering Rule Changes to Concussion Class-Action Plaintiffs
On Tuesday, the NCAA filed a proposed settlement in the US District Court of Chicago to potentially end the class-action head-trauma lawsuit. The preliminary settlement will create a $70 million fund for diagnosing current and former college athletes for brain trauma and other head related injuries. The NCAA is currently awaiting approval by Judge John Z. Lee.
The proposed deal also sets up a new and uniform return-to-play policy, treatment requirements, and protocol for athletes who sustain head injuries. The fund will be made available to both male and female athletes participating in football, hockey, field hockey, soccer, basketball, wrestling, and lacrosse.
The $70 million is a substantial amount set aside to facilitate the new requirements and the medical testing of athletes who are injured, though it does not set aside any money for those injured students. Instead, it simply provides students the authorization to bring suit to recover damages. If the settlement is approved, students will receive a questionnaire to fill out determining their level of symptoms. If a student exhibits the need, he or she will go to a test center to see a specialist and be diagnosed. The treatment stops there. Any further treatment is paid for by the injured student, and he or she must bring a personal injury suit against the school for resulting damages. As such, the preliminary settlement has met with some significant opposition.
Ramoogi Huma, president of the National College Players Association, has objected to the settlement primarily on this point of contention. Huma is dissatisfied that the deal offers suffering players no support. Furthermore, he fears the new return-to-play protocols are similarly inadequate. The rules are not mandated, but subject to the NCAA rulemaking process, which, he notes, can take years.
Jay Edelson, an attorney representing one of the clients, is similarly opposed. Intending to argue against its adoption in front of the judge, Edelson stated “it totally loses sight of the purpose of the case, which was to compensate people who were badly injured by concussions.” Edelson believes that the students are essentially left without recourse as no attorney will be willing to take their case against the NCAA for only around $20,000 in damages.
The NCAA has yet to comment on the matter.