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Dec 17, 2014 7:00 PM

APNewsBreak: Judge rejects NCAA concussions deal

The Associated Press

CHICAGO (AP) A federal judge rejected a proposed $75 million head injury settlement with the NCAA as far too broad on Wednesday and ordered both sides to go back to the drawing board.

U.S. District Judge John Lee in Chicago issued a 21-page ruling denying preliminary approval. He did say the deal could be altered to address his concerns, which include the scope of the proposal intended to settle a host of lawsuits accusing the NCAA of failing to protect athletes against head trauma.

"The denial is without prejudice, and the court encourages the parties to continue their settlement discussions in order to address these concerns," Lee wrote.

At an October hearing, Lee raised concerns that contact sport and non-contact sport athletes were covered under the proposal, as were former players going back decades. He said at the time: "The settlement, as it's constituted, includes every athlete for all time. ... Doesn't it make sense to have a more manageable period?"

The NCAA did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Wednesday. A plaintiff's attorney who spent nearly a year negotiating the proposal, Joseph Siprut, said he remained optimistic that a reconstituted settlement will eventual be approved.

"I would view this as a step along the way, but we've had a million steps along the way already. And we'll eventually get there," he said.

Ten lawsuits filed nationwide were consolidated into the one case in Chicago, where the first suit was filed in 2011. The lead plaintiff is Adrian Arrington, a former safety at Eastern Illinois. He said he endured five concussions while playing, some so severe he has said he couldn't recognize his parents afterward.

Under the proposed settlement, NCAA would toughen return-to-play rules for players with concussions. It would also create a $70 million fund to test current and former athletes for brain trauma, and set aside $5 million for research.

The number of athletes who may require testing to learn if they suffered long-term damage runs into the tens of thousands, the plaintiffs have said in filings. They cited NCAA figures that from 2004 to 2009 alone, 29,225 athletes suffered concussions.

At earlier hearing, Lee has also questioned the most contentious provision of the settlement: Severely concussed athletes would forfeit all rights to sue the NCAA as a group for a single, blockbuster damages payout. They could still sue, but only as individuals.


Follow Michael Tarm on Twitter at http://twitter.com/mtarm


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