Athletes' rights in jeopardy in California
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Athletes' rights in jeopardy in California

It is widely known throughout the professional sports community that California has among the most lenient workers' compensation systems. As a result, many of the compensation claims filed by football players in association with the NFL concussion suit were heard by California courts. A growing number of athletes who believe they may have suffered a brain injury at work are also seeking assistance through the state's compensation program because of its beneficial structure.

Even though football has been among the most highly publicized sports with concussion risks, other athletes are also vulnerable to long-term brain injury because of their profession. During the past 20 years, a shocking 2,500 athletes have entered claims in the California workers' compensation system because of the serious and sometimes permanent injuries suffered during their careers. In addition, during the past six years, nearly 1,000 athletes have submitted claims related to brain injury and other head trauma. Those include athletes from a variety of sports, including basketball and baseball.

Football players have still entered the highest number of claims, with nearly 5,000 athletes in that sport suffering from debilitating injury because of their profession.

Now, a variety of professional organizations in the state are trying to take away athletes' rights to file for workers' compensation, even though they have suffered career-ending brain injuries during their time on the field or court. New legislation under consideration by state lawmakers would limit non-California residents from filing claims, even though they may have competed in the state. In addition, athletes who have suffered cumulative trauma injuries over a period of years would be prevented from seeking financial compensation from their employers. Many athletes pursue suits in California because they are unable to obtain compensation from other jurisdictions.

It is important to remember that not all professional athletes make millions, and few have the long-lasting careers that would allow them to pay for their own traumatic brain injuries through independent wealth. By limiting these sports participants' abilities to file for workers' compensation claims, employees in other industries could also be prevented from obtaining the financial help they need.

Source:, "Thousands of California injury claims made by professional athletes" Ken Bensinger, Armand Emamdjomeh & Maloy Moore, Sep. 25, 2013

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