The NFL’s first regular-season game kicked off on September 9. During this time of year, most football fans find themselves occupied with rooting for the home team, drafting the perfect fantasy lineup, or preparing game day snacks. But, for professional athletes, the regular season can bring great concern: injury.
Did you know your favorite star football players can be eligible for workers’ compensation?
Thinking of scoring touchdowns as “working” may be strange, but Massachusetts sometimes allows professional athletes to collect workers’ compensation.
Are Professional Athletes Employees?
Employment status is one of the most significant factors in determining an injured party’s available remedies.
Massachusetts law only requires employers to provide workers’ compensation insurance for their employees. Thus, workers’ compensation benefits are only available to individuals classified as employees.
This conclusion may seem obvious, but often it’s not easy to differentiate between an employee and an independent contractor. For this reason, the requisite employer-employee relationship is of often dispute in workers’ compensation matters.
To determine whether an individual was an independent contractor when injured, Massachusetts courts usually look to the right of control. The right of control encompasses issues such as the method and manner of payments, whether the worker used the employer’s equipment, whether there was an absolute right to terminate the relationship, whether fringe benefits were being paid, whether the individual performed services exclusively for one company, and whether the work was part of the employer’s regular business.
Under Massachusetts law, an “employee” is every person in the service of another under any contract of hire, express or implied, oral or written.
However, there are exceptions to this definition. For instance, “persons employed to participate in organized professional athletics, while so employed, if their contracts of hire provide for the payment of wages during the period of any disability resulting from such employment” are not considered employees under state law.
Under this rationale, it seems as though professional athletes are always ineligible for workers’ compensation benefits in Massachusetts. But, this is not always the case.
When Can Professional Athletes Collect Workers’ Compensation Benefits?
In 2020, NFL players experienced 1.73 injuries per 100 plays, totaling just over 800 injuries.
Whether these 800 professional athletes can receive workers’ compensation depends on the contract they have with their team.
In many instances, NFL contracts stipulate if a player sustains an injury on the field, they will remain on the team with pay throughout their work-related injury.
This situation is what Massachusetts law is referring to when it excludes “persons employed to participate in organized professional athletics, while so employed, if their contracts of hire provide for the payment of wages during the period of any disability resulting from such employment” from classification as employees.
In these situations, workers’ compensation is not an available remedy.
However, not all NFL contracts contain such guarantees. If a team releases a player without pay following injury, they may be eligible for workers’ compensation and should consult with an experienced attorney to learn more about their rights and available remedies.
Why Would a Professional Athlete Need Access to Workers’ Compensation?
Often, we associate professional athletes with multi-million dollar contracts. Considering this, it is difficult to understand why someone like an NFL player would need to file a workers’ compensation claim.
Despite this preconceived notion, not all professional athletes make seven-figure salaries.
The 2021 minimum salary for NFL practice squad players is $9,200 a week. Throughout the 18-week regular season, this adds up to $165,000.
While $165,000 is certainly no small sum of money, the injuries professional football players are prone to can be quite costly.
In particular, contact sports players are especially susceptible to brain injuries. Repeated brain injury can lead to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, better known as “CTE.” Such conditions can have grave financial consequences.
According to Northwestern University, “The lifetime costs of a patient’s treatment for a traumatic brain injury are estimated to run from $85,000 to $3 million.”
With this in mind, it is easier to understand why professional athletes may need assistance with paying for medical bills.
Hurt on the Job? Keches Law Group Can Help.
Professional athlete or not, at Keches Law Group, we understand the impact work-related injuries can have on your family.
Our attorneys are part of a passionate team that will handle your workers’ compensation case from beginning to end
If you or a loved one has sustained an injury while on the job, contact us today.