NFL Ordered to Reimburse Hall-of-Famer's Estate

April 27, 2005 ( - A federal judge has instructed the NFL to pay the estate of a deceased Hall of Fame center disability benefits for extensive head injuries occurred while playing football.

US District Judge William Quarles Jr. ordered the NFL Player Retirement Plan and the NFL Player Supplemental Disability Plan to pay the estate of Mike Webster for all benefits owed retroactive to the time of his permanent disability in 1991. No actual figure was set, but the judge ordered the league and the estate to come up with a figure in 25 days; any figure also included interest on the payments, the judge also ruled.

Webster – who played center for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1974-89 – passed away in 2002 at the age of 50, according to the AP.

According to the suit, he played 177 consecutive games and was diagnosed with brain damage resulting from the long-term head trauma he sustained during his football career. Doctors ruled that he had multiple head injuries and a “dementing illness” as a result of playing football. After football, Webster was homeless at times and could not hold down a job because of the effects of his football injuries.

Webster applied for “total and permanent disability benefits” under the NFL plan, but was denied such benefits in 1999. He appealed several times, but his requests were denied, according to the AP. He died while another appeal was pending.