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The need for disability insurance in the NFL is on the rise after what seems to have been a huge year for injuries. Even though the amount of injuries overall is not that different from recent years, there were approximately 50 ACL injuries,* in both the preseason and regular season combined. There are a few different theories for the increase in ACL tears. First, with the pressure to eliminate helmet-to-helmet contact, defensive players are aiming lower to take down their opponents. Another theory is related to conditioning during the offseason. There is no way to know exactly what is causing this increase but athletes need to be prepared for the eventuality that their career could end. (Espn.go.com, Inside Slant: Big spike in ACL injuries, October 23, 2013)

The Green Bay Packers currently lead with the most injured players on the reserve lists. Casey Haywardcornerback for the Packers, has been out most of the season with a hamstring injury. If the team decides to release the injured player, that particular player will be paid depending on what was negotiated in his contract. Most players are not guaranteed their whole salary but usually guaranteed just a signing bonus, which the team pays the new player right away. The rest of the salary is spread out over the years they actually play for that specific team. (Pro-Football Talk, NBCsports.com, Packers put Casey Hayward on injured reserve, November 23, 2013)

For example, David Akers signed a three-year, $9 million contract with the San Francisco 49ers before the 2011 season. The team paid a $1.7 million signing bonus to Akers. That money was guaranteed. The 49ers also paid $1.3 million in salary to Akers for the 2011 season, plus another $3 million in salary to him last season. Akers was scheduled to earn the remaining $3 million via salary for the 2013 season, but he will not get that money because the 49ers released him. (How do contracts work? Glad you asked: ESPN, March 7, 2013).

“For those players who are injured and no longer able to play professional football, own-occupation protection attached to their disability insurance policy will keep them comfortable in the case they are released from the team due to an injury,” says Frank N. Darras, disability lawyer to the pros.

“Contracts for professional athletes are usually worded to pay them disability benefits if they are no longer able to play professional football,” explains Darras, “Oftentimes, professional players can find gainful employment doing sports broadcasting or coaching even though they are still receiving full benefits.”

With the Super Bowl fast approaching, the current football season will come to an end but with it comes the onset of the NFL draft. Newly-drafted football players should closely examine the injuries seen in the 2013 season. When looking at those numbers, all new athletes should protect themselves and their income with a disability insurance policy, says Darras.

According to Peter King, of Monday Morning Quarterback (MMQB), there is an upward trend in the total number of sustained injuries from 2004 to 2012. The data includes both practices and games. “The data also shows a steady annual increase in the number of injuries that require surgery and those that result in eight or more days of missed playing time,” (2013: Year of the Injury?: MMQB, December 2013).

The importance of preparing ahead cannot be stressed enough. With the high demands of professional sports, the state of a career lies with the physical ability to play the game, says Darras.

“You never want to see an athlete injured and out of the game permanently but it tends to happen more than we like to see,” says Darras. “Professional football players are always at great risk and should keep in mind the value of an individual disability insurance policy. Before we see the new season gear up, I would like to see all new and returning athletes review their policies with a top disability insurance lawyer who is familiar with star athletes and their insurance needs.”

DarrasLaw is Americas' most honored and decorated disability litigation firm in the country. Mr. Darras has seen more, evaluated more, litigated more, and resolved more individual and group long term disability and long-term care cases than any other lawyer in the United States.

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