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Federal judge approves potential $1 billion plan to resolve NFL concussion lawsuits

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A federal judged has finally approved a settlement to compensate former NFL players who are suffering from neurological disorders as a result of playing professional football.

Federal judge Anita Brody has approved a plan that could pay out $1 billion to more than 5,000 retired NFL players who filed concussion lawsuits against the league, according to The Associated Press. Each player would be paid, on average, $190,000 to players who claim that they have developed long-term mental health problems due to the chronic trauma their brains suffered while playing for the NFL.

Young players who have been diagnosed with Parkinson's or Lou Gherig's Disease could be paid up to $5 million, according to the report. The settlement covers the NFL's nearly 20,000 former players, not just the 5,000 who filed suit.

The settlement has undergone several revisions since an initial agreement in August, 2013. That first agreement was capped at $765 million for former players. Since, Brody has pushed for changes that remove the cap on benefits and medical monitoring, and force the NFL to give partial credit to players who participated in NFL Europe and other developmental leagues.

The $1 billion figure cited by the associated press includes interest to be paid out over the 65-year scope of the settlement and $112 million sought in lawyer fees.

Controversially, the settlement does not have any provision to provide compensation for players who are diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. In her decision, Brody explained that the science is still early on the disease -- most notably that as of yet, CTE can only be diagnosed in players posthumously.

The settlement has been rejected by roughly 200 former players or their families, including the family of Junior Seau, who was diagnosed with CTE after he killed himself in 2012. According to The New York Times, some plaintiffs object that potential symptoms of neurological disorders like memory loss, irritability and sleep deprivation are not covered by the settlement. Others believe that a provision should be added that allows the scope of the settlement to adapt to scientific discoveries -- for example, a test that can diagnosis CTE in the living.

Jeff Pash, the league's executive vice president and general counsel, praised Brody's decision:

"Today's decision powerfully underscores the fairness and propriety of this historic settlement. As a result of the settlement, retirees and their families will be eligible for prompt and substantial benefits and will avoid years of costly litigation that -- as Judge Brody's comprehensive opinion makes clear -- would have an uncertain prospect of success. We appreciate the careful supervision provided by Judge Brody, as well as the assistance provided by her appointees, former District Judge Layn Phillips and Special Master Perry Golkin. We look forward to implementing the terms of the settlement and continuing to work with our players, coaches and medical staffs to enhance the safety and benefits of football."

Payments to former players may begin as soon as any appeals of the settlement have concluded. Only players who have opted into the plan can appeal. The potential length of the appeals process puts those former players in an awkward position -- by appealing, benefits could be delayed by months, or even years, to former players and their families in need of assistance.