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About 10K ex-NFL players register for part of $1B concussion settlement

| Tuesday, March 7, 2017, 3:48 p.m.
The health of former Steelers center Mike Webster, shown here in 1988, significantly deteriorated after he retired because of head injuries.

Almost 10,000 retired football players have registered to receive payouts from a $1 billion settlement with the NFL in a class-action concussion-related lawsuit.

Pittsburgh attorney Jason Luckasevic expected even more by now.

There are more than 20,000 former players who could benefit from the settlement. Registration for the settlement began a month ago and will remain open until Aug. 7.

“I find it interesting that only 50 percent have registered,” Luckasevic said. “That tells you that a lot of guys are apathetic or unable to realize that they need to do something.”

Some settlement checks could be issued as soon as this summer, he said.

Luckasevic's clients include former Pitt stars Tony Dorsett and Hugh Green, late Steelers Mike Webster, Justin Strzelczyk and Terry Long, and former Steelers Louis Lipps, Bam Morris and Delton Hall. His national clients include Mark Duper, Rodney Hampton and Leonard Marshall.

The settlement resolved thousands of lawsuits that accused the league of covering up what it knew about the long-term health effects of repeated head injuries.

“We are encouraged by the immediate and enthusiastic participation from retired NFL players so early in the registration period,” Christopher Seeger, co-lead class counsel, said in a statement Tuesday. “Although registration will remain open for several more months, we urge all class members not to delay and immediately sign up today.”

Some former players and families of players who died had been fighting against the settlement, contesting it did not properly address all symptoms of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative condition that has been linked to repeated head injuries. CTE can be diagnosed only after death. The lead negotiators said they instead set aside compensation for treatment for some CTE symptoms. That does not include depression, aggression and mood swings reported by some former players who experienced repeated concussions.

The settlement awards up to $5 million for those with Lou Gehrig's disease, also called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS; $4 million for past deaths connected to CTE; and $3.5 million for advanced Alzheimer's disease. The average payouts would be closer to $190,000.

As part of the settlement, the NFL admitted no fault. Although a league official during congressional testimony acknowledged a link between football and CTE, an appeals court said that admission was not grounds to overturn the settlement.

Luckasevic said all of his clients or their families except for Dorsett registered for payouts. Dorsett opted out after deciding to pursue a singular lawsuit against the NFL.

“Some, like Tony Dorsett, are opting out in order to force discovery and a trial against the NFL,” Luckasevic said.

Ben Schmitt is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7991 or bschmitt@tribweb.com.

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