TODAY   |  December 22, 2013

NFL wives share stories of husbands’ brain injuries

“The wife … has to pick the pieces up,” said Garland Radloff, whose husband, former NFL lineman Wayne Radloff, was part of a lawsuit brought by 4,500 other players who accused the league of intentionally concealing the risks of concussions. NBC’s Stephanie Gosk reports.

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>>> following the ongoing controversy surrounding former nfl players and the injuries they sustain on the field. now the tales of a 765 million dollar settlement is ironed out, the wives of some retired players are speaking out about picking up the pieces after traumatic brain injuries . stephanie gosk has being story.

>> reporter: it looks like a lovely live a house on the golf course in hilton head , california, two great dogs and wonderful kids. but this life is falling apart.

>> my art aches.

>> reporter: are you scared?

>> yes.

>> reporter: wane retired from professional football in 1991 . in 2010 , this is the letter his employer wrote to the nfl disability board. radlof was showing a gradual weakening of his communication skills and he was forgetting to return phone messages. his doctor diagnosed traumatic dementia that he suspected was from multiple traumatic head injuries while playing football. the nfl denied his claim because he applied too late and still had some salary coming in. garland says the money coming in wasn't enough. the house is now under foreclosure and the couple of is in dead.

>> he hasn't been able to work for almost four years. someone would say, well, he looks normal. it's an invisible wound.

>> reporter: other wives of retired nfl players suffering from brain injuries tell the same story. how much of the responsibility of the family falls on your shoulders?

>> about 99% and it is a lot. and i'm not exaggerating. basically, i do all of the driving, all of the shopping, all of the bills.

>> reporter: each of their husbands is part of a lawsuit that the nfl agreed to settle for $765 million last august. 4,500 players accuse the league of intentionally concealing the risks of concussions. lawyers on both sides are still finalizing the details, but the nfl has agreed to split the money between compensation for retired players, medical exams, and research, while, at the same time, not admitting any liability. pittsburgh lawyer jason lock filed the original lawsuit. he does not believe the settlement is the end of the legal fight. players can choose to opt out of the deal.

>> i know that this case isn't over. and until my clients are getting something of value for themselves, they could put this issue to rest.

>> reporter: espn reports some retired players may be cut out of the compensation. a law firm wrote this letter to its clients suggesting there may be less money for players diagnosed after age 45, or for those who played five years or less. the nfl would not comment on the ongoing negotiations, but the commissioner has said this is the best deal for both sides. these wives believe their families' future depends on it. this becomes a wives' burden?

>> the wife has to take, the woman has to pick the pieces up.

>> reporter: the price they say for playing a punishing sport a lot higher than any of them knew. for "today," stephanie gosk, nbc news, hilton head , south carolina .