A board jointly made up of NFL management and representatives from the players’ union has amassed a 60 percent denial rate for disability claims. As many as 3,000 former players are in some kind of contested benefits case with the National Football League, mostly in workers’ compensation cases.
Former NFL Man of the Year Reggie Williams is no different from many of those players who have been permanently injured or disabled from years of playing the game he loves. His former team, the Cincinnati Bengals, is opposing his claim for worker’s compensation after 24 surgeries has left him with a host of medical bills and ongoing health issues.
Williams claims he’s already spent more than $500,000 out of pocket on his medical expenses that stem directly from his years of playing football in the NFL. While the NFL provides health insurance for players who were in the league at least three year for five years after leaving, many players’ injuries don’t truly manifest themselves til many years down the road.
California has become a hotbed for former professional athletes who are seeking workers’ comp benefits. This state currently has a worker-friendly policy that allows out-of-state workers to file for benefits for cumulative injuries, or injuries that have happened over the course of a career. But, the California legislature, with some assistance from the NFL, is trying to change that.
Many teams are attempting to insist that claims be filed in the player’s home state. Often those states have very short statutes of limitations – one to two years. When the player’s injury doesn’t fully manifest itself until several years down the road, many are left holding the bill and fighting with the NFL for disability or work comp coverage.
Williams asserts that his own injuries didn’t become fully apparent until almost 17 years after the end of his NFL career.
Source: The Washington Post, “Do no harm: Who should bear the costs of retired NFL players’ medical bills?,” May 9, 2013