Student Athletes: California Law to Protect Those with Career-Ending Injuries
Thousands of student athletes suffer serious trauma every year in California. While some cases lead to lawsuits holding the school responsible, other students are left bearing the financial burden of their injuries, explained California personal injury attorney James Ballidis.
The National Center for Sports Safety has compiled numerous statistics demonstrating the dangers young athletes face. According to their data, more than 3.5 million kids ages 14 and under are treated each year for sports related injuries, and more than 21 percent of all cases of traumatic brain injury (TBI) in kids are caused by sports injuries. The majority of the injuries—a full 62 percent of those caused by organized sports—occur during practice.
High school and college students are no less at-risk for injuries and, according to Stop Sports Injuries, high school athletes suffer an estimated 2 million injuries per year, leading to an estimated 500,000 doctor visits and 30,000 hospitalizations. In addition, more than 150,000 teenage athletes in high schools and colleges suffer concussions every year according to hospital reports. Finally, NCAA figures collected over a 16-year study demonstrate that thousands of college students are hurt each year while training for or playing sports.
Many of the injuries suffered by student athletes have significant long and short-term effects and, unfortunately, many of the injuries could be prevented. In fact, the CDC indicates that more than half of the sports injuries to kids are preventable, and Science Daily reports that more than 30 percent of all injuries sustained by college athletes are a result of overuse.
The fact that students who play organized sports suffer so many injuries is tragic. Equally tragic, however, is the fact that these students are often left on their own to bear the costs of their injuries.
When a school is not considered to be in breach of its duty or to have acted negligently and contributed to the injury, the student is left with the burden of paying his or her own medical bills and other injury-related expenses. According to a 2009 article in The New York Times, for example, the NCAA stipulates that schools must require athletes to have insurance coverage before playing sports but that it does not establish standards for coverage. As a result, many policies are limited and cover only a small portion of costs that result from injuries on the field.
The article reported on various student athletes left with huge medical bills as a result of sports injuries. For example, a Colgate student who hurt her back and legs while training for the crew team incurred $80,000 in medical bills, of which her insurance covered only one-third. An Ohio University football player was also cited in the article as owing $1,800 in unpaid medical bills six years after his injury.
California has attempted to address this problem, however, and an ESPN article in September of 2012 reported that California would become the first state to mandate that schools take care of athletes who suffer career-ending injuries. This new requirement, set forth in SB 1525, was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown and protects athletes at four universities—USC, UCLA, UC Berkeley and Stanford—that receive more than $10 million each year in revenue from sports media.
Under the new legislation, schools will be required to pay future medical costs. They will also be required to give academic scholarships to students who lose their athletic scholarships as a result of a sports injury.
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