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Workers Comp and OSHA in the NFL
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Workers Comp and OSHA in the NFL

As we look forward to another season of organized mayhem on the football field, let's pause for a moment to consider the fate of many athletes who play the sport: a lifetime of disabling injuries. Today's example does not appear to involve brain trauma , but it does illustrate the important role of workers comp in professional sports.

Michael Roos was a tackle for the Tennessee Titans. A second-round pick in 2005, he played for nine years. His first injury, involving his right clavicle and shoulder, occurred during the pre-season training of his first year. Over the course of his career, he suffered 28 injuries, which we can assume is pretty much par for the course. You can see the list of all his injuries here.

If you knew nothing about professional sports, you might be tempted to ask "where was OSHA?" Under OSHA's general duty clause, “Each employer shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.” Under the general duty clause, there literally would be no football. Needless to add, the NFL - and other professional sports - are not directly governed by OSHA.

Which brings us to workers comp: Roos recently settled his claim against the Tennessee Titans, collecting a lump sum of $76,633.70 and, more importantly, securing life-long medical care for any problems related to his numerous football injuries.

Given their high salaries, professional athletes are usually not interested in the indemnity portion of comp: it's often capped at a state's average industrial wage, no more than roughly $55,000 annually. But the medical benefits for work-related injuries are another matter: it would not be surprising at all if Roos were to need shoulder and knee replacements, among other surgeries. As long as he can point to football as the source of his medical problems - not a difficult standard, to say the least - comp will foot the bill.

Jon Coppelman

Senior Workers Compensation Specialist

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