NFL Athletes vs. California

30 July 2013 / California Workers Compensation, Medical History / Comments Off on NFL Athletes vs. California

NFL image.

NFL player retires. NFL player suffers from cumulatie trauma—injuries that are incurred gradually over the course of a career spent crunching skulls on the gridiron. NFL player doesn’t want to pay for his injuries out of pocket, but the player has a hard time getting the NFL to pay for his coverage—except in the state of California.

For a long time, California’s relatively liberal workers’ compensation system has allowed non-Californian professional athletes to get medical coverage, provided that the athletes played games in California at some point during their career. The NFL and other sports leagues don’t like this, because it means that they get stuck with the six-figure cost of treating their players’ injuries, which often last a lifetime.

Enter Bill AB 1309, which, if approved by the Senate, will prevent prevent out-of-state athletes from using California as a way to get the NFL (or other sports leagues) to pay for their  medical expenses.

The bill plugs up a leak for professional sports leagues and other businesses to whom California’s workers’ compensation system has been something of an achilles heel.

Assemblyman Henry T. Perea (D-Fresno), who wrote the bill, said that California’s workers’ compensation system “has been increasingly exploited by out-of-state professional players at the expense of California teams and all California businesses... The flood of claims are raising insurance costs for all employers."

However, on the other side of the fence, retired athletes and workers’ rights groups oppose the bill. Some maintain that taking away NFL players’ ability to get compensated for injuries partially sustained while in California sets a “dangerous precedent” for denying other workers’ coverage.

Sarita Gupta, executive director of Jobs with Justice (JwJ), argues that NFL players are entitled to use California’s system provided that they have played a reasonable amount of games and paid taxes in the state.

According to attorney Dawn Neufield, another AB 1309 antagonist, California’s economy stands to gain from allowing professional athletes to use its workers’ compensation system: “California collected roughly $171 million dollars in taxes from professional athletes last year. So California's economy benefits from these players' taxes, and yet state legislators are still trying to deny them benefits.”

Here at and RateFast, our mission is to get fast and accurate impairment ratings for injured workers, not to determine who gets an impairment rating in California and who doesn’t. However, the controversy of AB 1309 raises larger questions about the system that we are attempting to help medical professionals navigate more efficiently. Which California workers qualify as California workers? Where does the line get drawn?

As of last week, the bill is being fast-tracked. In an attempt to mollify injured athletes who have already applied for workers’ compensation in California, some 6,000 claims that have already been filed will still be processed within the current system. We should be curious about whether or not this batch of claims are the last of their kind in the state.

Back to top