Family of former Bear Jim Dooley says his ALS was caused by his NFL career

FOX 32 NEWS - Beginning this week, former NFL players can register to become part of the NFL’s massive concussion lawsuit.

The family of Chicago Bear great, Jim Dooley, is among a growing number of plaintiffs that's expected to climb into the thousands.

Dooley played wide receiver back in the 50's and 60's, an era where hard hits were taken for granted. The unwritten rule was if you get hurt, someone else is ready to take your spot.

Having endured more than a decade of bruising physical punishment, Dooley, who never smoked, drank or took medication, was diagnosed with ALS, a disease that took his life in 2008 at the age of 77.

It was a disease his family says was caused by his NFL career.

"I don't think there was ever any doubt in my father's mind that he had ALS because of playing football, he knew he was broken down because of football, there was no question, he played 11 years,” said daughter Lisa Dooley Trace.

Jim’s wife Elaine recalls the moment she realized his deteriorating physical condition had gone from bad to worse.

"In '99, one of the doctor's came to me and told me you're going to have to move, at that time we were living in the city in Ravenswood, he told me you're going to have to move because Jim's not going to be able to make stairs much longer,” Elaine said.

As part of the NFL’s concussion settlement, former players are eligible to receive financial awards based on the severity of their brain injuries. The average payout is expected to be just under 200-thousand dollars, although for former players like Dooley, the payout could reach as high as five million dollars.

"This whole thing is based on the fact that the league and the teams knew, understood that players weren't going to take themselves out. They had that responsibility and ultimately they had that power and they didn't use that power as they should have,” said Dooley family attorney Brian Salvi.

In the latter years of his life Dooley, whose mind stayed sharp even as ALS ate away at his body, said he had no regrets and would do it all over again, although his son believes number 43 would have supported players suing the NFL.

"I think today he would look at it and say, I'm glad somebody is doing something about this...that they don't have to go through what I went through,” said Jim Dooley Jr.

As many as 20-thousand players could eventually join the settlement, which the NFL says will be payed out in installments over the next 65 years.