The agreement provides up to $5 million per retired player for serious medical conditions associated with repeated head trauma.
While the lawsuit was a combination of hundreds of actions brought by more than 5,000 ex-NFL players, the settlement applies to all players who retired on or before July 7, 2014, according to Judge Anita Brody’s 132-page decision.
It also applies to the family members of players who died before that date.
About 200 other former players opted out of the settlement to the lawsuit, which accused the NFL of hiding the dangers of concussions.
The NFL said the players and their families would be eligible for “prompt and substantial benefits.”
“Today’s decision powerfully underscores the fairness and propriety of this historic settlement,” said Jeff Pash, the NFL’s top lawyer.
There is no cap on the amount of funds available to pay the monetary awards and all valid claims will be paid in full for 65 years.
Initially there was a $765 million figure on the settlement with $675 million capped. Brody declined in January 2014 to approve the deal, saying she was concerned about the amount of money.
But another agreement reached in June eliminated a maximum for the monetary award fund. Brody gave her tentative approval to the deal two weeks later, but also held a hearing in November for people who wanted to comment on the fairness of the deal.
In February, she told the plaintiffs and the NFL to enhance the compensation for players who suffered from symptoms of CTE, chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
CTE is a progressive degenerative brain disease found in some athletes with a history of repetitive brain trauma. More than 50 former NFL players, including Junior Seau and Dave Duerson, have been posthumously diagnosed with the disease.
The retired players or their estates could receive between $1.5 million and $5 million depending on their age and the severity of their cognitive impairment. Players with fewer than five years of experience will receive smaller awards.
The settlement also will provide eligible retired players with baseline neurological exams.
People who want to file a claim must do so within 180 days of receiving notice the settlement is in effect.