NCAA Head Injury Lawsuit Settled With $70 Million Brain Evaluation Fund

The NCAA has settled a class-action lawsuit by agreeing to set up a $70 million fund to evaluate current and former NCAA athletes in a variety of contact sports for brain trauma. Unlike the NFL's maligned but needed settlement that's still evolving, this seems at first blush like an OK deal for NCAA athletes, since it isn't dealing with damages.

The settlement, according to the AP, will cover both men's and women's sports, and cover multiple sports, "including football, hockey, soccer, basketball, wrestling, field hockey and lacrosse." There is no cutoff for when players in these sports must have played, so literally anyone who has ever played, regardless of age, is eligible for evaluation. And unlike the NFL's settlement, the evaluated players and former players may then individually sue their schools (and presumably the NCAA) for damages. The settlement doesn't affect the ongoing Northwestern case for unionization of NCAA athletes.

In addition to the evaluation fund, the settlement also agreed to finally getting an NCAA-wide protocol in place for evaluating head injury during games, and enforcing a unified return-to-play policy. As part of this, players will also undergo baseline neurological tests at the beginning of each year, which is a huge deal, and will shade how accurately future evaluations can measure any brain trauma or dementia.

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This isn't a bad outcome for this settlement, unless the $70 million across more than 1,000 NCAA schools proves too little to enact the evaluations and baseline tests. The NCAA admitted no wrongdoing, but that was never going to happen in a settlement. But remember, while open evaluations for decades' worth of athletes is a great thing, how possible it's going to be turn those evaluations into actionable claims is another thing entirely.

[AP]