The NFL has paid out nearly $500 million in the first two years since the creation of its concussion fund, and the legal wrangling continues.
According to the Star Tribune, lawyers of players who have made claims with the NFL say there aren’t enough doctors in the approved network to evaluate dementia claims. As a result, lawsuits have been filed now on behalf of a number of players that contest a rule that requires retired players be tested by doctors within 150 miles of their home, a condition that was aimed at preventing “doctor shopping” and fraud.
Fund administrator Orran Brown said ex-players had converged on four doctors in particular who have since been dismissed from the program because they had “high-volume traffic” and suspect findings.
"We didn't notice it until the claims were coming in," Brown told the Tribune. "Forty-six million dollars went out the door on these claims before we could flag it."
Under the terms set by the NFL, former players who are diagnosed with dementia can claim anywhere from $1.5 million to $3 million depending on the severity of their condition.
Senior U.S. District Attorney Anita Brody, who has been on the case since 2011, said the distance rule was needed to prevent abuse.
"A few were brought to my attention where we had a lawyer from Pennsylvania and a player from Florida going to a doctor in Texas. And that was a red flag," Brody said.
Gene Locks, a lawyer from Pennsylvania who represents nearly 1,100 retired players, said his clients accepted the deal with NFL with the understanding that they could pick their own doctors.
"They had bad experiences with the NFL benefit program, both during their playing time and after their playing time, when they felt they were used and abused, and were not going to the doctors they wanted to," Locks argued.
Brown said he’s still trying to recruit more doctors to the program but has suggested to Brody that exceptions be made in certain cases.
The NFL has appealed about 30 percent of approved claims, according to the Tribune, but closer to 15 percent if the four doctors removed from the program aren't counted, according to players lawyer David Buchanan.