US judge approves revised NFL head injuries deal

PHILADELPHIA - Thousands of ex-National Football League players are to be compensated for head-injury claims, after a US judge gave a green light to a revised settlement.

The revised deal means that more than 20,000 retired players can now vote on the settlement. Last month, the NFL agreed to pay an unlimited amount in damages to players with severe concussion-related claims after removing a $675 million cap on awards.

Lawyers for the more than 4,500 retired players who sued the league are accusing the NFL of a cover up regarding dangers of concussions and violent hits to the head.

Lawyers Sol Weiss and Christopher Seeger said in a statement that Monday's decision represents "an extraordinary settlement" for the plaintiffs.

"We have received overwhelming support from the retired player community as they learn more about the guaranteed benefits and long-term security this settlement provides, and we look forward to soon finalizing this agreement," Weiss and Seeger wrote.

US District Court Judge Anita Brody wrote in her decision on Monday that her concerns over an earlier settlement were "satisfied" and that the revised deal "is a significant improvement" over the first.

In January, Brody rejected an agreement struck last August in which the NFL agreed to pay $765 million to provide medical benefits and injury compensation to retired players and their families.

The new "uncapped" settlement, Brody wrote, "ensures that there are sufficient funds available to pay all claims through the 65-year term of the settlement and improves the manner in which diagnoses are made to protect against fraud." The settlement also sets up a $10 million fund for education programs geared to concussion prevention.

NFL senior vice president Anastasia Danias called Brody's decision comprehensive and said the league would work with the plaintiffs to implement the terms.

The court will hold a fairness hearing later this year at which plaintiffs can air objections to the settlement.