NFL tackles tough workers' compensation issues

Judges have recently made sports headlines when they decided to begin upholding the rights of National Football League players to receive workers' compensation benefits. Though our society usually associates workers' compensation with injured construction workers, factory employees and other hard laborers, nearly every American worker is entitled to file and receive these benefits under circumstances.

For some time, it was considered inappropriate for contact sports stars to file for workers' compensation benefits due to the inherently risky nature of their employment. However, judges have dismissed that logic, given that some of the nation's most dangerous industries also employ workers that need the safety net of workers' compensation the very most.

It is not, they argue, in the best interests of the nation's workers to deny them benefits for occupational illness and injury simply because their jobs are dangerous. Part of the reason why workers' compensation exists is to ensure that workers who perform dangerous but necessary roles in our economy are financially protected in the event of debilitating occupational hazards.

However, one specific kind of injury is giving the NFL pause in respect to the workers' compensation claims being filed by former players. In increasing numbers, claims are being filed by players suffering from long-term effects of traumatic brain injury and general head trauma. Given that the treatment for these kinds of injuries can require life-long care, the cost of these claims is threatening the financial well-being of the NFL itself.

This serious financial issue is one that the NFL will have to tackle with care and concern for its players. For as judges have recently ruled, the nature of football players' employment is no reason to deny them the coverage that they deserve.

Source: ESPN, "Teams face workers' comp threat," Darren Rovell, Aug. 30, 2012

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