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A California workers’ compensation panel threw out a brain-injury claim by former National Football League player Tony Dorsett just months before he was diagnosed with early signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a debilitating condition linked to repeated blows to the head. (ESPN, Dorsett, others show signs of CTE, November 7, 2013)

The 59-year-old Hall of Fame running back had his claim dismissed in May when a judge ruled that his $85,000 settlement for injuries to “multiple orthopedic body parts” in 1991 made him ineligible to file another claim for a subsequent injury. Dorsett appealed the panel’s decision, but it was upheld in August.
(LA Times, State panel rejected injury claim by NFL’s Dorsett , November 8, 2013)

“It’s unfortunate that the law restricts him from filing another claim for an injury that is affecting a completely separate part of his body. He had 45 days to appeal the decision to the California Court of Appeal, but didn’t. With new evidence behind him, it’s a shame he didn’t choose to fight the decision further,” says Frank N. Darras, disability lawyer to the pros.

It appears that ” new evidence” released on Wednesday revealed that researchers at UCLA had found that Dorsett and two other former NFL players showed signs of CTE. The degenerative disease has been found in the autopsied brains of dozens of former NFL players, but only recently have diagnoses in living players been possible. *

“I want to know if this is something that’s come about because of playing football. It’s painful,” Dorsett said in the report, noting that his memory was slipping and he had problems controlling his temper.

The real problem is that these injuries appear years after players retire. Testing, data and new techniques for CTE evaluation is shedding new light on recently emerging symptoms. Since 2006, more than 3,500 former players have filed workers’ compensation claims in California alleging head and brain injuries. (NFL.com, Judge sets NFL concussion suit arguments for April, Jan. 30, 2013)

NFL workers’ compensation insurance companies vigorously fight these claims because they cost millions in settlements and lifetime medical treatment. Not surprisingly, the league backed legislation signed last month by Gov. Jerry Brown that will bar many athletes from filing such claims in California, says Darras.

“NFL teams and their insurance companies fight these claims and they fight them hard. It’s no wonder they are now getting involved at a policy level. It’s really a shame that an organization chooses not to give back to the players who make them so rich in the first place. If there’s anything that gives me hope, it’s the recent $765 million concussion settlement. The dollar amount of the settlement was small in relation to the NFL billion dollar television contract, but it’s a step in the right direction. Our efforts show that we aren’t giving up and that disability lawyers like me remain committed to winning these cases for former players,” said Darras.

*Source: ESPN, Dorsett, others show signs of CTE, November 7, 2013

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