With the NFL season getting started last Wednesday night, player health, at all levels, comes to the front of my mind. I have recently been thinking about health insurance with respect to sports. Living in Canada, it is definitely less of concern than in the U.S., but I thought I would share some thoughts about the college and pro levels of sport.
There is no way that I’m the first person, after all this time, to talk about what colleges and pro teams are doing about health insurance for players. I know there are a bunch of questions about whether or not concussions are pre-existing conditions, and other reasons players can’t be insured, but it should be a legitimate issue at the college and pro-level for contact sports. The NFL, NHL and NCAA have enough financial wherewithal to encourage some forward thinking insurance company to insure the players who are, perhaps unwittingly, putting their future well-being in jeopardy on the field of play.
As has been reported countless times, concussions are caused in a number of ways and the symptoms are diverse. So why should it be forced into the same insurance categories as other injuries with the “pre-existing” condition clause? If there was enough demand for some type of concussion insurance, a new category for a specific league/sport could be created. Taking care of players once they retire (the average age of retirement for NFL players is 30 or 28. I’ve seen both estimates. Either way, not old) is a long-standing quarrel between the players and the owners. When retirement comes at such a young age, a solution obviously requires some innovative thinking, but for a league as rich as the NFL, it may not need to be very innovative at all. Maybe a little less greed from owners, players, and the league is all that’s really necessary.
Players – instead of monstrous $10 million/year contracts (for example), how about trying to live on $8 million/year and putting $2 million (20% of salary is a lot, but I’m making a point at how reasonable it is) I toward a team-pooled health/retirement plan where you could gain more interest than a lowly $2 million?
Owners – instead of building large, overly ostentatious stadiums and boxes, how about putting some of that money towards your team’s health/retirement plan, for your players who risk (unknowingly, because you can’t truly know until it happens to you, and even then it’s different for everybody) so much and make you rich in the process?
NFL – how about ensuring teams are looking out for their players future health issues? Which will invariably arise.
Next comes the argument about how “it’s my money, I can spend it how I want”, which frankly sounds like whining. Do you not pay taxes? That money goes to the building roads and hospitals, and that’s for everybody! This is just for you as players, and for owners, it’s protecting your assets/showing a bit of gratitude.
Just because this post was about the NFL, doesn’t mean it can’t apply to the NHL or the NCAA (whose players don’t have salaries they can chip in) on a smaller scale.