If you’re a nurse who got injured while lifting a patient, chances are your injury would be covered by workers’ comp. If you’re a construction worker and you broke your arm while working at a construction site, you’d expect this to be covered by workers’ comp as well. But what if you were a professional football player who sustained brain injury from multiple concussions? Should that also be covered under workers’ compensation?
When you think of “injured on the job” and “workers’ compensation,” football isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. Fair enough: Playing a sport doesn’t exactly seem like work, does it?
But let’s look at the law. In North Carolina, you are generally eligible for workers’ compensation if you are injured while “performing the duties of employment.” Technically, for a professional football player, taking the brunt of a head-on collision from a defensive lineman is what they’re hired to do — they’re performing a duty of employment.
This is the argument that’s being made by several former NFL players. Tony Gaiter (formerly of the New England Patriots and the San Diego Chargers) and 141 other former NFL players are suing the NFL for damages from brain injuries. Currently, NFL players affected by brain injuries are not covered by workers’ compensation despite the fact that these injuries occurred as a result of their profession. The hope is that this case will bring about reform to the way the NFL handles brain injuries and the treatment of the players.