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NCAA reaches proposed settlement in concussion lawsuit

The NCAA will provide $70 million for concussion testing and diagnosis of current and former NCAA student-athletes as a part of its agreement to settle claims in several consolidated concussion-related class actions.

The settlement agreement, which also includes educational initiatives and $5 million in concussion research, will resolve the pending class actions, which are now consolidated in federal court in Chicago.  The agreement conditions are subject to approval by Judge John Lee of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

“We have been and will continue to be committed to student-athlete safety, which is one of the NCAA’s foundational principles,” said NCAA Chief Medical Officer Brian Hainline. “Medical knowledge of concussions will continue to grow, and consensus about diagnosis, treatment and management of concussions by the medical community will continue to evolve. This agreement’s proactive measures will ensure student-athletes have access to high quality medical care by physicians with experience in the diagnosis, treatment and management of concussions.”

Under the proposed settlement agreement, all current and former NCAA student-athletes in all sports and divisions who competed at an NCAA member school may qualify for physical examination, neurological measurements and neurocognitive assessments. The agreement covers academic accommodations for student-athletes with concussions, return-to-play guidelines, educational programs, research and plaintiffs’ attorney fees. Bodily injury claims are not part of this settlement.

A number of return-to-play guidelines, several of which have already been adopted by the NCAA, are addressed by the settlement, including:

  • Baseline concussion testing of NCAA student-athletes.
  • Student-athletes with a diagnosed concussion will not be allowed to return to play or practice on the same day, and must be cleared by a physician.
  • Medical personnel with training in the diagnosis, treatment and management of concussions must be present for all games and available during all practices.
  • Establish a process for schools to report diagnosed concussions and their resolution.

“From the research partnership with Department of Defense to playing rules, equipment requirements and medical best practices, the NCAA has been on the forefront of safety issues throughout its existence,” said Donald Remy, NCAA chief legal officer. “The NCAA will continue to identify advancements to address head injuries in NCAA sports.”

Highlights

  • The NCAA today agreed to settle claims against the Association over concussion-related diagnosis.
  • If approved, the agreement will end the lawsuit related to the consolidated Arrington litigation. This includes 14 cases.
  • The settlement includes $70 million for concussion testing and diagnosis for current and former NCAA student-athletes.

Q&A with Donald Remy, NCAA chief legal officer

Q: What does this settlement agreement mean for NCAA schools?
A: NCAA members should continue their commitment to the diagnosis, treatment and management of concussions for student-athletes. The NCAA will communicate any additional information pending approval of this agreement by Judge Lee.
Q: What happens next?
A: This settlement agreement with the plaintiffs and their lawyers has been filed with Judge John Lee, who we expect to schedule a hearing for potential preliminary approval of the terms.
Q: How was the $70 million amount determined?
A: The NCAA and plaintiffs’ attorneys calculated the cost to develop and administer the testing and diagnostic program based on the number of current and former student-athletes, as well as a progressive estimate of medical costs.
Q: Who should former and current student-athlete contact if they would like to participate?
A: We will work with our member schools to obtain all reasonably available names and addresses of student-athletes, who will then be notified of the fund. We will also provide educational information regarding concussions, their symptoms and long-term effects. In addition, we will also provide a way for current and former student-athletes to contact the program for potential participation.
Q: How will the NCAA fund this settlement?
A: While we are still working through the details, funding sources are expected to include payments from NCAA insurance carriers.
Q: How is the NCAA settlement different than the NFL agreement?
A: The facts, circumstances, issues and practices being challenged in the class actions and other cases filed against the NFL are very different from the cases involving the NCAA.  Moreover, the two settlements are very different and comparisons between the two settlements would be very difficult.  Indeed, Judge Layn Philips, a former federal judge and the person who served as the mediator for both the NFL and the NCAA, recognized in the declaration he submitted in support of the NCAA settlement that the two litigations and settlements are very different and that it would be difficult if not impossible to undertake a meaningful comparison.