What is a California Sports Worker’s Compensation Claim and Why Do Professional Athletes Qualify?
“Athletes are really the only part of the work force that are actually expected to have injuries and still perform their ‘usual and customary duties.’ Hasn’t every coach, at every level, used the phrase, ‘You have to play through your injuries.’ Doesn’t that ability separate us from champions?”
—Judge Robert E. Drakulich
Whether you had one tryout, played one game, or played 25 seasons – depending on the circumstances you may qualify for workers compensation benefits in California.
Two types of claims can commonly be made in California for former professional athletes – cumulative trauma claims and specific injury claims.
Cumulative Trauma claims allow you to get compensation for every part of your body from head to toe – physical, internal, psychological, etc.
Specific Injury claims commonly involve specific injuries that occur that cause a player to miss time from games or practices, i.e., a torn ACL, etc.
If you either:
Played or worked out for a California major league or minor league team (even if the minor league team only promised or paid you a very small amount per game);
Were physically in California – permanently, temporarily (visiting a relative, on vacation, etc.) when you agreed with your agent or the team to a contract. For example, told your agent called you and told you that the team was offering a one year contract and you told the agent that you wanted to accept the deal;
Physically in California when you signed the contract;
Played for the Globetrotters while they were based or had their headquarters in California;
Played for a team that had its league based in California;
Played in California Summer Leagues or traveling league teams based in California; etc.
Cumulative Trauma Claims are the most common claims for athletes because they involve the wear and tear on one’s body over the course of one’s career.
Imagine a construction worker who runs a jack hammer for an entire career.
He or she may not have one single injury that forces him or her to stop working but the accumulation of wear and tear on his or her body from using the jack hammer on a daily basis will necessitate higher medical care costs later in life for him.
Rather than having the public via Medicare or Medicaid pay for the injured construction worker’s medical care; or your premiums increase because the injured construction worker must utilize his private insurance – thereby making everyone’s premiums increase; the social public policy mandates that the employer – that benefited from the labor which resulted in the wear and tear of the injured construction worker – should be responsible.
This theory applies equally to professional athletes. The wear and tear on your body from the constant hitting and pounding and multiple injuries from your sport will result in higher medical care later in life – not to mention the pain that you will experience.