The NFL and the NFL Players Association continue to build momentum toward an eventual labor deal. In this specific case, they also happen to be doing the right thing.
Confronted with mounting evidence that men who participate in sports involving repeated blows to the head can cause amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, the league and the union have agreed to include ALS within the program that provides benefits to former players suffering from dementia.
Under the “88 Plan,” named for Hall of Fame tight end John Mackey, players become eligible for benefits without having to prove that football caused the condition. It provides up to $88,000 for institutional care or up to $50,000 for custodial home care.
Since its adoption in 2006, the “88 Plan” has contributed $9.7 million to the care of 132 former players.
“We are pleased to jointly expand this financial resource that will improve the quality of life for suffering former players and alleviate the financial drain imposed on their families by this terrible disease,” the union and the league said in a joint statement.
Of course, the decision also legitimizes the notion that a lifetime of football can cause a player to develop ALS after retirement. And that’s all the more reason for the NFL to take decisive action to get big hits to the head out of the game.