The first two claims related to the NFL’s settlement with thousands of former players over concussion risks were finally approved for a total of $9 million in benefits.


According to the Associated Press, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania was notified of the approval Thursday by the class and the NFL through a joint status report.


The first payout was for $5 million, which is the maximum financial award given in the settlement. The player was diagnosed with the qualifying degenerative disease of Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The claim was approved on May 26.


The second payout was for the qualifying diagnosis of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Since CTE can only be confirmed after death, the family of the player will collect the payout. June 5 was the approval date for this payout.


Although the names of neither man were released in the documents, the amounts reveal that each played for at least five seasons in the NFL and received their diagnosis before turning 45 years old.


NFL Players Sign Up En Masse to Receive Settlement Benefits


The approval of the first two claims is welcome news for the thousands of players who have waited years to see benefits from their lawsuits claiming that the NFL knew about the risks associated with concussions but failed to warn or protect players.


Lawsuits against the league were brought as early as 2011 with thousands of former players following suit with claims against the NFL. The lawsuits culminated in a historic settlement first reached in 2013. After U.S. District Court Judge Anita Brody set the settlement back twice over concerns about the amount of money available for players, a settlement was approved for an estimated $1 billion in 2015.


Players who tried to appeal the settlement over concerns that it didn’t do enough for players who have or will suffer from CTE prevented things from moving forward.


In late 2016, Third Circuit Judge Thomas L. Ambro of the U.S. Court of Appeals decided to let the settlement stand.


“This settlement will provide nearly $1 billion in value to the class of retired players,” Ambro wrote in his ruling. “It is a testament to the players, researchers, and advocates who have worked to expose the true human costs of a sport so many love. Though not perfect, it is fair.”


The decision paved the way for the enrollment period for players to open in February to the roughly 20,000 former players eligible to receive benefits.


Since then, more than 14,500 players have registered on the official site at Christopher Seeger, co-lead class counsel for the retired NFL players, told Barry Wilner of the Associated Press that he is encouraged by the number of players that have registered so far.


“We continue to be encouraged by the response from retired players and their families to the settlement, and are pleased that its vital benefits — including monetary payments — are now available,” Seeger said. “We implore all class members, even those who may feel healthy today, to register before the Aug. 7 deadline so they can be eligible for the benefits they deserve.”


Players Eligible for Monetary Awards and Baseline Testing


Under the settlement, players with qualifying degenerative diseases are eligible to receive financial awards, depending on a range of factors. These diseases include Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and more.


While lawyers for the NFL estimate that about 6,000 players could be eligible for monetary awards averaging $190,000, all former players who have played at least a half a season in the league and qualify for the settlement are entitled to free baseline testing to find out whether they have a previously undiagnosed neurocognitive impairment.


An administrator in charge of the baseline assessment program has reached out to 141 providers in 42 cities near most retired players to conduct the tests.


All players are encouraged to get a baseline assessment to see whether they are eligible for further testing or treatment and to provide a tool to measure any future cognitive impairment. The information will also be used in research to prevent injuries in football and to learn more about concussions.


Concussions Remain Major Issue in NFL


Although the NFL hoped to put the topic of concussions behind it with the settlement, head trauma contains to remain a controversial and oft-discussed topic around the league.


In a recent interview with CBS This Morning, Gisele Bundchen suggested that her husband, New England Patriots star quarterback Tom Brady, has suffered concussions, including one as recently as last year.


The league looked into his medical records but found nothing to suggest any head trauma had occurred.


This further raised the question of whether teams and players continue to hide concussions to keep playing. The league is planning a further investigation into the matter.