The NFL agreed Thursday to spend close to $800 million to diagnose and compensate potentially thousands of retired players who develop dementia or other brain injuries they blame on the violent, bone-crunching collisions that pro football has long celebrated in its highlight reels.

The settlement, which is subject to approval by a federal judge, was announced after months of court-ordered mediation. It came just days before the first game of the 2013 season, removing a major legal and financial threat hanging over the NFL.

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