Armen Keteyian: ‘No More Beloved Figured In San Diego Than Seau’

On Tuesday night, Showtime’s 60 Minutes Sports aired a compelling piece on the NFL concussion settlement.

If you didn’t see this segment, you should.

“It’s really a story about the concussion settlement as a whole,” 60 Minutes Sports correspondent Armen Keteyian said on The Doug Gottlieb Show. “The piece is about 15 minutes long, and it’s one of the more complicated pieces I’ve ever worked on. We spent at least a month deciding whether we were even going to do the piece or not. And the Seau family is an important part of it, but it’s also a story about the pros and the cons and the objectors and the why was the deal made? It’s one of those kind of stories that we think hasn’t really been shown on television before.”

As Keteyian explained, 99 percent of the roughly 21,000 former players involved in the class-action lawsuit have opted in. In other words, they are not going to contest the settlement; they just want to get what they can get.

That may or may not be a wise choice.

“As it turns out, the settlement really provided coverage for former players in this class that are diagnosed with ALS or Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s or some cognitive diseases that are associated with the brain,” Keteyian said. “But what’s really interesting is the one disease most associated with football, which is CTE – chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which (is caused by) repeated blows to the head – (has) basically been watered down or some would argue stripped out of the settlement. So the one disease most associated with football is really hard to find in this settlement.”

There is one CTE-related provision – CTE with death – in which families of deceased players could receive compensation. Living players experiencing mood or behavior symptoms associated with CTE, however, would not.

“That’s where the rubber kind of meets the road,” Keteyian said.

So, Doug Gottlieb wondered, is this a lot like big tobacco?

“I think it is,” Keteyian said. “I think it is in a lot of ways. If you go back into the history of traumatic brain disease in the NFL – and I’m not the first one to walk this path, certainly – the first time CTE was ever discovered in the brain of a former player was Mike Webster in 2002. That was after Mike had died, and that was in an autopsy. So you’re talking 12 years. It’s not that long (ago), and this has blown up in recent years certainly based on League of Denial and the Frontline pieces but other reporting as well.

“I was in San Diego when Junior (Seau) was playing with the Chargers,” Keteyian continued, “and there’s no more beloved figure in the history of that city. And his family just lost him in the last few years of his life and they didn’t really understand why. And he was suffering – I don’t think without question – from some of the most debilitating mood and behavior symptoms most associated with CTE.”

Keteyian believes that Seau intentionally shot himself in the chest – as opposed to the head – when he committed suicide in May 2012. Thus, his brain could be preserved for an autopsy.

“It was devastating to the family because they really did not understand what they were going through,” Keteyian said. “The one thing that comes out of our reporting – and I think others’ reporting – is that these mood and behavior symptoms wreck people’s lives, and they are not covered in this settlement.”

Keteyian did say that scientists are confident they’ll be able to diagnose CTE in the living within five to 10 years. But for the NFL, that might not matter.

“That is not part of this settlement as well,” Keteyian said. “It’s controversial on a lot of levels.”

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