NFL players have the right to file for workers' compensation benefits if they can prove they were injured on the job. Typically, when an NFL player becomes injured, workers' compensation claims are targeted to a particular injury and, when appropriate, allotted a certain monetary settlement.
The complications surrounding some of the very valid workers' compensation claims, however, revolve around how many years have passed from the time served on the field to the time of the claim filing. Famed Denver Bronco player Floyd Little and others who played for the Broncos have claims pending from injuries sustained during their careers in the 1970s and 80s.
California is the only state that bans a time restriction for workers' compensation claims. Players who endured "constant overuse" can file a cumulative trauma case. In addition, NFL players do not need to have played for a California team in order to file a claim. They only need to have played one game on California soil for their claim to be valid.
Because of the financial implications, NFL officials have been fighting back and working to have claims filed in other states. They have also pointed to the 88 Plan, which allows players to collect money if they are suffering from Alzheimer's or dementia and are being treated in a healthcare facility.
The NFL has faced scrutiny in recent months. More than 3,000 players and their families have filed lawsuits against the organization for concussion-related injuries they suffered while they were playing professionally.
It is unclear how those lawsuits will turn out and how cumulative trauma cases in California will be handled in the future. Nevertheless, it is important that NFL players, and others, understand the sometimes complicated workers' compensation laws in California. While some may not initially consider football as a job, the fact remains that these men are performing a service and being paid to do so. Being paid to play does not revoke the right to claim workers' compensation benefits for sustained injuries and lasting suffering.
Source: ESPN, "Teams face workers' comp threat," Darren Rovell, Aug. 30, 2012