On Friday, it was widely reported that the NFL had submitted actuarial data for the proposed head injury settlement between thousands of retired players and the league. Those data were startling. From the New York Times:
The National Football League, which for years disputed evidence that its players had a high rate of severe brain damage, has stated in federal court documents that it expects nearly a third of retired players to develop long-term cognitive problems and that the conditions are likely to emerge at “notably younger ages” than in the general population.
According to the Times, the NFL estimated that former players younger than 50 were eight times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s or dementia than the general population, with the gap between former players and non-players increasing with age. The League tried to pooh-pooh this data by arguing that it was over-estimating the incidence of brain-related illness in order to ensure full funding of the settlement money.
But it makes absolutely no sense for the league to provide estimates that it believes have no basis in reality. In other words, there is every reason to believe that the numbers it provided are a reasonable approximation of reality. Even if the league took its best guess and doubled it, that best guess for brain trauma would still be dramatically higher than the general population. And there’s always the possibility that the league is, in fact, providing a low-ball estimate.
This is a horrifying report.