Canadiens Winger Brandon Prust Sidelined with Shoulder Injury, Expected to Return Late November

NHL, injuries and lockouts are nearly synonymous when it comes to hockey. Private disability policies with "own occupation" clauses guard against a pre-mature end to a professional athlete's career, says disability lawyer to the pros, Frank N. Darras of DarrasLaw.

November 07, 2013

Montreal Canadiens winger Brandon Prust was sidelined 2 weeks ago for four weeks with a shoulder injury. Prust suffered the injury in Saturday's 2-1 loss to the Nashville Predators when he crashed hard into the boards. Habs forward Daniel Briere also left Saturday's game with a concussion and the New York Times is reporting both are back on the ice. (New York Times, Canadiens' Briere skating again, November 7, 2013)

It's no secret that hockey is a brutal game. Anyone who has ever been to a hockey game before knows that some players start fights like it's their job. An article on CBS New York earlier this year suggested that "if the NHL wants to take mayhem out of its games, it must severely punish all guilty parties. If you hit-check a player into the boards from behind, you must be hit with a severe punishment." (newyork.cbs.local.com, Brutality In Hockey Is Running Amok, And That Needs To Change, March 7, 2013)

While both Prust and Briere are expected to return to the game by late November, players like Ronny Keller aren't so lucky. Keller was left paralyzed earlier this year by a hit into the boards in March from opponent Stefan Schnyder. He'll never play again and his earning potential is thwarted forever. (FoxSports, Swiss player paralyzed after hit, March 7, 2013)

"I'm not sure if Keller had a private disability policy, but I sure hope he did. He now knows first-hand how in one second your entire life can change and your career ripped from your hands. The reality is that hockey is one of the most brutal professional sports out there. Players need more than gloves and shin guards to protect themselves, they need financial protection as well," says Frank N. Darras, disability lawyer to the pros.

Private disability policies with "own occupation" clauses guard against a premature end to a professional athlete's career. An "own occupation" clause means that the disability benefit will be paid out if the individual can no longer perform the "essential duties" of their current job regardless of whether or not they can perform another occupation, like coaching or sportscaster.

Many players are hesitant to take out a policy because they feel they are already protected through the team's workers' compensation program. However, there are serious pitfalls to relying solely on this workers' compensation and not investing in a policy that provides financial protection against temporary total disability.

"Being on a professional team is no different than working for a large company and most Fortune 500 companies at least provide long-term group disability coverage to their employees. If you are a free agent moving from one team to the next, you aren't covered. If there is a lockout, which has been a frequent occurrence in the NHL, you aren't covered. Relying on workers'  compensation provides temporary disability benefits until you reach permanent and stationery statute, which means you are not getting any better or any worse. Medical is covered but earning protection to age 65 or a career ending lump sum payout can only be obtained with individual disability insurance," said Darras.