Even Multimillion-Dollar-A-Year Football Players

This time of year we are all focused on the success of our favorite sports teams, particularly, the New England Patriots. Did you know that football players like the rest of us can file for workers’ compensation benefits when injured in the course of their employment?

Recently, in the course of an investigation by the Los Angeles Times into the workers’ compensation system, it came to light that Deion Sanders filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits in California alleging head trauma and other injuries incurred while playing for the Dallas Cowboys.

In November of 2010, Sanders was found to be disabled by the Division of Workers’ Compensation as a result of cognitive impairments, behavioral and emotional disorders, and a sleep impairment as well as arthritis.

Sanders played in the NFL for the Atlanta Falcons, the San Francisco 49ers, the Dallas Cowboys, the Washington Redskins, and the Baltimore Ravens, winning the Super Bowl with both the 49ers and the Cowboys. Currently, he works as an NFL analyst.

He is one of a host of current NFL employees, including at least six other NFL Network analysts and dozens of assistant coaches and team personnel, who have made workers’ compensation claims. There are nearly 4,000 claims pending in California at this time, which could cost the NFL as much as a billion dollars to resolve. Additionally, federal lawsuits have been filed by more than 4,500 former players and their families alleging that the risks of injury were not fully disclosed. The NFL has agreed to pay $765 million to settle those claims.

Under current California workers’ compensation law, athletes who played as little as one game in the state have been allowed to pursue injury claims against their former teams. Claimants are evaluated by doctors and, if they are found to be disabled, may receive financial compensation as well as medical care. California also is one of a handful of states that recognize so-called cumulative injuries, injuries that occur over time, a category that includes brain trauma. It also allows some players to file claims years or even decades after their careers have ended, making California the forum of choice for some retired athletes.