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[IWS] CRS: FORMER NFL PLAYERS: DISABILITIES, BENEFITS, & RELATED ISSUES [8 April 2008]

IWS Documented News Service
_______________________________
Institute for Workplace Studies----------------- Professor Samuel B. Bacharach
School of Industrial & Labor Relations
-------- Director, Institute for Workplace Studies
Cornell University
16 East 34th Street, 4th floor
---------------------- Stuart Basefsky
New York, NY 10016
-------------------------------Director, IWS News Bureau
________________________________________________________________________

Congressional Research Service (CRS)
Order Code RL34439

Former NFL Players: Disabilities, Benefits, and Related Issues
April 8, 2008
L. Elaine Halchin, Analyst in American National Government, Government and Finance Division
http://assets.opencrs.com/rpts/RL34439_20080408.pdf
[full-text, 145 pages]

Summary
Professional football is a very popular sport, and the physical nature of the
game of football is part of its appeal, but, at the same time, playing the game can
exact a physical and mental toll on players. Violent collisions, as well as other
aspects of the sport, can and do cause injuries. Each week during the season, the
National Football League (NFL) releases an injury report that lists, for each team,
players who are injured, the type or location of the injury (for example, "concussion,"
"knee," or "ribs"), and the players' status for the upcoming game. During the 2007
season, aside from weeks one and eight, at least 10% of NFL players were identified
each week as being injured. Players' injuries and current health conditions (for
example, excess weight and sleep apnea) might have long-term consequences for
their health, meaning that today's injury might become a chronic health problem or
disability during retirement from the NFL. The issue has received considerable
attention from Congress, including hearings in both chambers.

Through collective bargaining agreement (CBA) negotiations and other
discussions, the NFL and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) have established a
number of benefits, including retirement benefits (that is, a pension), severance pay,
total and permanent disability benefits, and an annuity program. Some benefits are
available to all players, while other benefits are available only to players who played
in the NFL during certain years. Additionally, some benefits have eligibility
requirements. Funds for benefits that are included in the CBA come from the portion
of the league's total revenues that is allocated to the players. Apparently, the NFL
and the NFLPA determine how to fund other benefits.

The NFL and the NFLPA have taken steps to promote the health and safety of
players. The league has established several committees, such as the Mild Traumatic
Brain Injury (MTBI) Committee, and, through NFL Charities, awards grants for
medical and scientific research related to health and safety issues. The NFLPA has
a medical advisor and a performance consultant, and there is an NFL-NFLPA joint
committee on player safety.

The subject of injuries, disabilities, and benefits is a complex one, and there are
a variety of issues surrounding this subject. For example, it has been argued that the
way compensation is structured within the NFL might induce an individual to play
while injured instead of seeking medical treatment. The oldest retired players might
make up a subset with exceptional financial and medical needs, because they (1)
might not have been protected as well as current players are; (2) might have received
medical care that, while the best available at the time, was not as effective as the care
available today; and (3) are not eligible for all of the benefits available to current
players. Another issue involves MTBI research and whether multiple concussions
might have long-term effects. The NFLPA proposed three legislative options in
2007. Other possibilities include establishing one or more ombudsman offices or
taking steps to mitigate the economic risk of injuries and disabilities.

This report will be updated as events warrant.

Contents
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
The Game of Football and the Health of Players . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
The Nature of the Game of Football . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Health Problems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
NFL and NFLPA Benefit Programs and Plans . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
History of Benefits . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
How Benefits Are Funded . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
Benefits for Former Players . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28
NFLPA Retired Players Department . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40
Players Assistance Trust (PAT) Fund . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
The Alliance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45
Other Efforts to Aid Former Players . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48
Selected Organizations and Websites . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48
Active Players' Efforts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49
NFL and NFLPA Health and Safety Initiatives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50
NFL Injury and Safety Panel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50
NFL Cardiovascular Health Committee . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51
NFL Medical Research Grants . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52
NFL Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53
NFL and NFLPA Education Efforts for Players . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54
NFLPA Medical Consultant and Performance Consultant . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55
NFL and NFLPA Joint Committee on Player Safety and Welfare . . . . . . . 56
Discussion of Selected Issues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58
Injuries and Financial Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58
Selected Challenges for Some Retired Players . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74
Total and Permanent (T&P) Disability Benefit . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 76
Is There a Subset of Former Players with Exceptional Needs? . . . . . . . . . . 86
What Is Known about Injuries and Possible Long-Term Consequences? . . 92
Studies on Possible Long-Term Effects of MTBI . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 92
Susceptibility to an Additional MTBI . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 97
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 98
NFL's Approach to MTBI . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 104
Funding for the Retirement Plan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 110
What Is the Extent of the NFLPA's Capacity? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 112
Medical Care for Active Players . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 113
Access to Medical Records . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 113
Arrangements for Medical Care and Treatment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 114
Workers' Compensation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 118
Possible Courses of Action . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 119
NFLPA's Suggestions for Legislative Action . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 119
Establish Federal Standards for Workers' Compensation . . . . . . . . . 120
Permit Unions to Manage Their Benefit Plans . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 120
Eliminate the Requirement for the Disability Initial Claims
Committee (DICC) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 121
Other Suggestions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 122
Mitigation of Economic Risk . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 122
Independent Studies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 123
Data: Collection, Quality, and Access . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 124
Establish an Ombudsman Office . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 126
Concluding Observations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 126
Appendix A. Glossary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 128
Appendix B. NFL and NFLPA Studies Concerning Players' Health . . . . . . . . 134
Planned or Ongoing Studies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 136
Appendix C. Members of the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee and
Retired Player Study Investigators . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 138
MTBI Committee . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 138
Retired Player Study Investigators . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 139
Appendix D. Acronyms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 141

List of Tables
Table 1. The NFL's Major Television Rights Contracts, 2006-2013 . . . . . . . . . . 1
Table 2. Number of Players Listed on the NFL's Injury Report, 2007 Season . . . 7
Table 3. NFL Players' Injuries by Type of Injury, 1997-1999 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Table 4. Selected NFL-NFLPA Benefits as of October 2007 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
Table 5. Players Assistance Trust Fund Grants, by Grant Type, 1991-2007 . . . . 43
Table 6. Players Assistance Trust Fund Grants, by Year, 1991-2007 . . . . . . . . . 43
Table 7. NFL Charities' Grants for Research Related to Players' Health, 2003-2007 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53
Table 8. Signing Bonuses Among NFL Players, 1993-1997 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 64
Table 9. Signing Bonuses Among NFL Players, 1998-2002 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 66
Table 10. Signing Bonuses Among NFL Players, 2003-2007 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 68
Table 11. Range of Percentage of Total Players Who Received a Signing Bonus, by Signing Bonus Amount . . . . . . . . . 70
Table 12. Total and Permanent Disability Payments by Category . . . . . . . . . . . . 78
Table 13. Selected Criteria for Football Degenerative and Inactive Categories . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80
Table 14. Effect of 15-Year Threshold on Eligibility for "Football Degenerative" Benefits . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . 81
Table 15. Number of Players Who Are Receiving or Have Received T&P Benefits, as of October 23, 2007 . . . . . . . . . . 83
Table 16. Benefits Available to Players . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 89
Table 17. Recipients of NFL Charities Grants for MTBI and Related Research, 2003-2007 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 106


______________________________
This information is provided to subscribers, friends, faculty, students and alumni of the School of Industrial & Labor Relations (ILR). It is a service of the Institute for Workplace Studies (IWS) in New York City. Stuart Basefsky is responsible for the selection of the contents which is intended to keep researchers, companies, workers, and governments aware of the latest information related to ILR disciplines as it becomes available for the purposes of research, understanding and debate. The content does not reflect the opinions or positions of Cornell University, the School of Industrial & Labor Relations, or that of Mr. Basefsky and should not be construed as such. The service is unique in that it provides the original source documentation, via links, behind the news and research of the day. Use of the information provided is unrestricted. However, it is requested that users acknowledge that the information was found via the IWS Documented News Service.

****************************************
Stuart Basefsky
Director, IWS News Bureau
Institute for Workplace Studies
Cornell/ILR School
16 E. 34th Street, 4th Floor
New York, NY 10016

Telephone: (607) 255-2703
Fax: (607) 255-9641
E-mail: smb6@cornell.edu
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