PhotoA judge presiding over a suit against the National Football League (NFL) focusing on players’ concussions has ordered lawyers for both sides into mediation in the hopes of reaching a settlement. The order was handed down by Judge Anita Brody of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

The suit, originally filed in 2011, was brought on behalf of 4,200 former NFL players who say concussions they suffered while playing football have led to a number of serious brain-related medical issues.

The NFL says that, under the terms of the Labor Management Relations Act, the case cannot be litigated in court, but rather must be handled in arbitration.

Brody’s order names Layn Phillips, a retired judge from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, as the mediator.

Prospects unclear

Gabriel Feldman, who directs Tulane Law School’s Sports Law Program, told The New York Times that he doubted the mediation would produce a settlement.

“[Phillips] might bring them closer, but to what? This is complex litigation," Feldman told the Times. "A settlement here would be dollars going to the plaintiffs, and I'd be surprised at this early a stage for the NFL to give a large settlement."

The plaintiff’s complaint alleges that the NFL “continuously and vehemently denied that it knew, should have known or believed that there is any relationship between NFL players suffering concussions while playing ... and long-term problems such as headaches, dizziness, dementia and/or Alzheimer's disease that many retired players have experienced."

Physical and emotional suffering

The case has been explosive from the start, involving tales of physical suffering and emotional heartache for former NFL players and their families.

The players’ injuries range from Alzheimer’s and dementia to depression to Lou Gehrig's Disease to kidney disorders to recurring seizures.

Lead plaintiff Ray Easterling, whose lawyer filed the suit in August 2011, killed himself the following year. Easterling had struggled with insomnia and depression and, ultimately, increasing memory loss. In 2011, he was diagnosed with dementia.

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