A new movie starring Will Smith is bringing greater focus to the dangers of football and the risk of traumatic brain injury that football players face. The film is the true story of Dr. Bennet Omalu, a pathologist who discovered that many former football players were suffering from a disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, also known as CTE. The disease is thought to be caused by repeated concussions.
The findings have had a significant impact on all levels of football. The NFL and many college conferences have implemented rule changes designed to protect players’ heads. Also, many parents have held their kids out of youth football. From 2010 to 2012, youth league enrollment dropped by nearly 10 percent.
While football head injuries may get the most attention, you don’t have to be a football player to suffer a traumatic brain injury. The truth is that a traumatic brain injury can happen anywhere. And the costs of such an injury can be substantial. A study from the CDC showed that the lifetime cost of treating brain injury can start at $85,000 and go all the way up to $3 million, depending on the severity of the damage.
Sufferers of brain injury may also have trouble working. The same study showed that the unemployment rate two years after an injury is nearly 60 percent.
Sufferers of brain injury may be able to pursue litigation to recover those costs. However, sometimes even a legal settlement or judgment aren’t enough to cover the full costs.
No one knows that better than some retired NFL players who are suffering from CTE. In early 2015, the league finalized a $1 billion settlement with the Players Association on behalf of retired players suffering from CTE and repeated concussions.
Not all players qualify, however. Former 49ers defensive lineman George Visger played only three years in the league, disqualifying him from receiving benefits. He receives workers’ compensation, but said in a recent article that the monthly payment isn’t enough to save him from homelessness.
Unfortunately, his experience is all too common among sufferers of traumatic brain injury and CTE. It can be a lifelong injury that is complicated, costly, and sometimes nearly impossible to cure.