Injury Time-Out: Justifying Workers’ Compensation Awards to Retired Athletes with Concussion-Caused Dementia
By Michelle L. Modery
The dangers of playing professional sports are no secret to athletes or fans. This is especially true in the National Football League. In fact, the Associated Press reports that Boston University is conducting a study regarding a degenerative brain disease among retired NFL players. The NFL takes care of certain football injuries that have effects lasting beyond playing days, usually pursuant to workers compensation standards. The applicability of these remedies in the case of dementia, which can result from concussions sustained over the course of an NFL career, is less clear.
Michelle L. Modery is a Managing Editor of Temple Law Review. In her recent Comment, which the gang at The Legal Blitz highly recommends reading, Modery addresses the feasibility and equity of retired NFL players’ potential workers’ compensation claims against the NFL for dementia caused by concussions suffered during their playing days in the NFL. No state has yet addressed the topic, and whether dementia is a compensable injury will be an issue of first impression in any state’s workers’ compensation scheme. Several legal hurdles stand in the way of a successful claim. Claimants must be able to prove a causal link between decades-old concussions and current symptoms of dementia. Some states have specifically excluded professional athletes from statutory coverage. The League’s disability policy, which facially applies to these claimants, actually prevents many retired players from collecting compensation. Despite these hurdles, and although concussion-caused dementia claims may seem extraordinary at first blush, they actually fit squarely within the purview of the workers’ compensation scheme. Because of this, potential claimants can, and should be, successful.
The full article, courtesy of Temple Law Review, is available here (84 Temp. L. Rev. 247).