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How Will Concussion Lawsuits Affect the NFL?

The National Football League may be flying high but a dark shadow looms over what should be celebratory times for America's biggest sport. Concussions and other potential medical liability has left the league with huge legal exposure that could cost it billions or even alter the way the NFL operates.

Host Jason Hellmann, along with panelists Jake Mann and Daniel Kline, debate what this mean for the future of the NFL on Business Take, the show that gives you the Foolish perspective on the most important business stories of the week. 

"There is a big problem looming for the NFL," Hellmann said. "What happens if all the former players basically at once drop these lawsuits? Can the NFL afford something like this to happen?"

Mann, who specializes in sports business, broke down the issue explaining that the NFL is currently facing a lawsuit from about 4,000 former players that alleges the league covered up the side effects of concussions for the past few decades. The potential damages from that lawsuit could be in the billions.

"Here's the problem," Kline said. "There is no safe way to have your brain rattled around in your head while another 300-pound guy is bumping into you."

The issue, Kline added, is not just the past liability but the ongoing future liability. This could undermine the sport -- while it's possible to make rules that make the game safer, those rules could diminish interest in the NFL. The league's current projected possible liability is around $10 billion -- about a year's worth of revenue -- but that number only increases as time goes forward.

"Ultimately, this could mean the end of football," Kline said. 

Both Hellmann and Mann took umbrage at Kline's suggestion that the lawsuits could put the future of the league at risk.

"A year's worth of revenue is worst-case scenario. More realistic is about a tenth of that," Mann rebutted.

A settlement of the existing case does not solve all of the league's problems. The NFL also faces potential lawsuits from players who had concussions in college and were then drafted, Mann added. This, he explained, could lead to the league making much stricter rules about how it deals with concussions in general.

"That's the bigger issue," Mann said. "That is something the NFL would have a hard time preventing."

Do you believe the NFL's future is in peril because of this issue? Did the league do something wrong or should players have understood the risks? Watch the video below for the whole story, then share your thoughts and comments below.

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Daniel B. Kline

Daniel B. Kline is an accomplished writer and editor who has worked for the Microsoft's Finance app and The Boston Globe, where he wrote for the paper and ran the business desk. His latest book "Worst Ideas Ever" (Skyhorse) can be purchased at bookstores everywhere.

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