Paul Lewis on sport

Paul Lewis is the Herald on Sunday's Sport Editor

Paul Lewis: $982m payout shrewd play from NFL

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Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

It will have been closely watched by the New Zealand Rugby Players Association. But, while US$765 million ($982 million) in a settlement sounds like a win, the victory probably went to the National Football League, ahead of gridiron players allegedly suffering health problems from concussion in the USA.

This landmark settlement has ramifications for New Zealand rugby and league players. But they are not necessarily good consequences.

Players suffering health problems from the later effects of concussion have come to the fore after a series of deaths and maladies suffered by former NFL players.

The lawsuit against the NFL was designed to get recompense for players unable to pay their medical bills - and to force the NFL to make changes to safeguard players. Fans of oval ball codes will recall some disgraceful episodes where clearly concussed players have been allowed to play on - the most recent George Smith's obvious concussion when playing for the Wallabies against the Lions this year.

But while US$765 million sounds like a lot, the players had asked for US$2 billion and some thought they could reap US$5 billion in court.

Not so. The case was settled out of court because the NFL was confident it would win in court. The medical proof definitively linking concussion in the NFL to later medical conditions may not have held up.

The money has to be spread over 4000 players and will actually be apportioned according to the seriousness and urgency of the medical conditions; much of it will be paid out over 17 years and little will be left for another main aim (additional medical research).

The real clincher comes in two parts - the NFL made a staggering US$9.5 billion in America last year alone. The settlement also allowed it to insert a disclaimer saying it admitted no liability and made no admission that the plaintiffs' injuries were caused by football.

It has shut down the issue before the NFL season kicks off and the settlement means it has to make no changes at all.

You wonder how long it will be before a New Zealand or Australian rugby or league player or players take out a suit against their parent bodies. Better, perhaps, to put a strict medical code of conduct in place that reduces that risk and, more importantly, the risk to players.

- NZ Herald

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