The NCAA reached a preliminary agreement on Tuesday afternoon to settle a three-year-old class-action lawsuit regarding head injuries. The governing body of college sports agreed to create a $70 million fund to diagnose current and former college athletes who may have suffered from concussions or other brain trauma while playing contact sports, as well as to change its rules regarding the management of athletes who have sustained brain trauma, according to reports by ESPN and other news outlets.
“I think this is a great resolution to an epidemic,” Joe Siprut, co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs, told USA Today. “This is an issue that has plagued college sports for decades. I think that we’re single-handedly, through this case — I don’t want to say resolving it because as long as football exists there will always be injuries — but I think we’re addressing and confronting the issue in a way that has never been done before.”
Some say the settlement does not go far enough. It does not include provisions to compensate individuals who have already suffered brain trauma, for example. Those injured athletes hoping for compensation will have to sue their schools on an individual basis.
“There’s … no support for players actually suffering from those conditions, from effects of TBI [traumatic brain injury] from that sport,” Ramogi Huma, president of the National College Players Association, told ESPN. “They should have gotten support for players as part of the settlement rather than forcing players to fend for themselves.”
Huma also took issues with the NCAA’s promise to change its head-injury guidelines, specifically complaining that the preliminary settlement fails to require schools to implement a uniform and mandatory return-to-play protocol. Instead, individual schools would still have final say over when and how players with head injuries would make their return.
“[W]e know what the regular NCAA rule-making process is like. It could take years, or they could shoot it down,” Huma told ESPN. “The settlement represents yet another refusal of the NCAA to protect players from unnecessary brain trauma. Instead of agreeing to rules that protect players’ brains by reducing contact in practices and mandatory return-to-play protocols, such protections would remain optional.”
The settlement is next subject to approval by Judge John Z. Lee of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. He does not have to provide preliminary approval before notice can be sent out to the class-action plaintiffs, USA Today reported, adding that the process could take several months to complete.