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CRS Report to Congress on Former NFL Players: Disabilities, Benefits, and Related Issues

CRS Report to Congress on Former NFL Players: Disabilities, Benefits, and Related Issues

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Published by Robert Lee
This is the final 145-page report submitted in 2008 by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) to Congress on Former NFL Players: Disabilities, Benefits, and Related Issues,
This is the final 145-page report submitted in 2008 by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) to Congress on Former NFL Players: Disabilities, Benefits, and Related Issues,

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Published by: Robert Lee on Nov 09, 2012
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Order Code RL34439
Former NFL Players: Disabilities, Benefits, andRelated Issues
April 8, 2008
L. Elaine HalchinAnalyst in American National GovernmentGovernment and Finance Division
 
Former NFL Players: Disabilities, Benefits, and RelatedIssues
Summary
Professional football is a very popular sport, and the physical nature of thegame of football is part of its appeal, but, at the same time, playing the game canexact a physical and mental toll on players. Violent collisions, as well as otheraspects of the sport, can and do cause injuries. Each week during the season, theNational 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 2007season, aside from weeks one and eight, at least 10% of NFL players were identifiedeach week as being injured. Players’ injuries and current health conditions (forexample, excess weight and sleep apnea) might have long-term consequences fortheir health, meaning that today’s injury might become a chronic health problem ordisability during retirement from the NFL. The issue has received considerableattention from Congress, including hearings in both chambers.Through collective bargaining agreement (CBA) negotiations and otherdiscussions, the NFL and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) have established anumber of benefits, including retirement benefits (that is, a pension), severance pay,total and permanent disability benefits, and an annuity program. Some benefits areavailable to all players, while other benefits are available only to players who playedin the NFL during certain years. Additionally, some benefits have eligibilityrequirements. Funds for benefits that are included in the CBA come from the portionof the league’s total revenues that is allocated to the players. Apparently, the NFLand 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 TraumaticBrain Injury (MTBI) Committee, and, through NFL Charities, awards grants formedical and scientific research related to health and safety issues. The NFLPA hasa medical advisor and a performance consultant, and there is an NFL-NFLPA jointcommittee on player safety.The subject of injuries, disabilities, and benefits is a complex one, and there area variety of issues surrounding this subject. For example, it has been argued that theway compensation is structured within the NFL might induce an individual to playwhile injured instead of seeking medical treatment. The oldest retired players mightmake 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 receivedmedical care that, while the best available at the time, was not as effective as the careavailable today; and (3) are not eligible for all of the benefits available to currentplayers. Another issue involves MTBI research and whether multiple concussionsmight have long-term effects. The NFLPA proposed three legislative options in2007. Other possibilities include establishing one or more ombudsman offices ortaking steps to mitigate the economic risk of injuries and disabilities. This report willbe updated as events warrant.
 
Contents
Introduction......................................................1The Game of Football and the Health of Players..........................4Introduction..................................................4The Nature of the Game of Football...............................5Health Problems..............................................12NFL and NFLPA Benefit Programs and Plans..........................18History of Benefits ...........................................18How Benefits Are Funded......................................24Benefits for Former Players.....................................28NFLPA Retired Players Department..............................40Players Assistance Trust (PAT) Fund ............................41The Alliance.................................................45Other Efforts to Aid Former Players..................................48Selected Organizations and Websites .............................48Active PlayersEfforts.........................................49NFL and NFLPA Health and Safety Initiatives..........................50NFL Injury and Safety Panel....................................50NFL Cardiovascular Health Committee...........................51NFL Medical Research Grants...................................52NFL Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee.......................53NFL and NFLPA Education Efforts for Players.....................54NFLPA Medical Consultant and Performance Consultant.............55NFL and NFLPA Joint Committee on Player Safety and Welfare.......56Discussion of Selected Issues.......................................58Injuries and Financial Considerations.............................58Selected Challenges for Some Retired Players......................74Total and Permanent (T&P) Disability Benefit......................76Is There a Subset of Former Players with Exceptional Needs?..........86What Is Known about Injuries and Possible Long-Term Consequences?..92Studies on Possible Long-Term Effects of MTBI................92Susceptibility to an Additional MTBI.........................97Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).....................98NFLs Approach to MTBI.................................104Funding for the Retirement Plan................................110What Is the Extent of the NFLPAs Capacity?.....................112Medical Care for Active Players................................113Access to Medical Records................................113Arrangements for Medical Care and Treatment.................114WorkersCompensation......................................118Possible Courses of Action........................................119NFLPAs Suggestions for Legislative Action......................119

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