NCAA to settle head injury suit with $70 million fund

By Mary Wisniewski, Reuters

Posted at Jul 30 2014 03:17 PM | Updated as of Jul 30 2014 11:17 PM

CHICAGO - The NCAA has agreed to settle a head injury lawsuit by providing $70 million for concussion testing and diagnosis of current and former student athletes in a move expected to change the way such injuries are handled at colleges nationwide, according to court documents filed on Tuesday.

The class-action agreement, if approved by a federal judge and class members, applies to student athletes in all sports who have played at schools regulated by the National Collegiate Athletic Association at any time in the past until 50 years in the future.

The settlement does not include bodily injury claims, which plaintiff's attorney Steve Berman said should be handled on an individual basis. He said the settlement is aimed at protecting student athletes on the field.

"The whole goal of my clients is to change the way the NCAA handles concussions," Berman said. "We're very hopeful this will cut down on the number of concussions and people returning to play too early."

The lawsuit was first filed in 2011 on behalf of former Eastern Illinois football player Adrian Arrington, who said he suffers from headaches and seizures as a result of concussions. The proposed settlement covers 14 consolidated cases.

The danger of concussions and other head injuries has received increased attention in college and professional sports in recent years with much of the focus on football.

An open-ended settlement between the National Football League and thousands of former players, who contend the league played down the risk of concussions, was granted preliminary approval by a federal judge earlier this month. The settlement removed a $675 million ceiling placed on payments to former players.

The settlement also calls for the NCAA to contribute $5 million for concussion research, although research done by member schools can be credited toward that amount.

The NCAA settlement addresses a number of guidelines, including that a student with a concussion will not be allowed to return to play or practice on the same day and must be cleared by a doctor.

Also, medical personnel must be present for all games and available for practices. The settlement also establishes a process for schools to report concussions.

A hearing on the NCAA agreement is scheduled for 2 p.m. CDT (1900 GMT) in Chicago but U.S. District Judge John Lee is not expected to make a decision on whether to grant preliminary approval until next month, Berman said.

More than 450,000 NCAA student athletes compete in 23 sports. The NCAA makes about $740 million revenue each year, according to court documents.

(Reporting by Mary Wisniewski; Additional reporting by Steve Ginsburg; Editing by Bill Trott)