The NFL's players union is using some of its revenue to assist retired players who face catastrophic illnesses or other personal crises.

The NFL Players Association announced Thursday that its board of directors voted to donate $100,000 a year for five years to the Players Assistance Trust Fund. The fund, organized a year ago, has raised $75,000 already and has set a goal of half a million dollars in the next year.The NFLPA has ceased representing players in collective bargaining and no longer collects dues. Its money comes from licensing programs, a speaker's bureau, special events, foundations and private donations.

Gene Upshaw, executive director of the union and president of the fund, said a 1988 survey found that of 1,000 players who responded, 870 had either been divorced or were broke or unemployed six months after they left the game.

"We found that the corporate world that has all the health plans doesn't usually welcome players because they are older when they get out and it is very hard for them to break in," he said. "They are only 28, 29 or 30, but they are just a few years behind when they are looking for jobs."