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Are College Athletes Considered Employees?

On Behalf of | Sep 9, 2018 | Workers' Compensation

When it comes to the increasingly profitable arena of college sports, there is no more hotly debated issue than if student athletes should count as employees. If they help their team win a national championship, their school could see billions of dollars from the win while the players walk away with some merchandise and some nice memories. However, even though student athletes train for their teams upwards of 40 hours a week like an actual job, there are many who consider the scholarships that pay for their college education as payment enough.

While the argument over whether or not to pay college athletes may never be resolved, what is most concerning is what happens when an athlete gets hurt. Like an employer, universities with sports teams are required by law to have insurance that covers their medical expenses. However, even with insurance, there are things that they might not cover. This leaves players and their families responsible for the cost of copays, surgeries, and physical therapies.

Worse yet, if an injury prevents a college athlete from playing, they could lose their scholarship that pays for their education. This can mean they could not only become financially responsible for continuing their education, but forced to pay medical bills that can amount to the equivalent of a college education.

It doesn’t seem very fair, does it? In a way, college athletes are treated way worse than an employee because they are not afforded the same rights. If an employee anywhere in the United States got hurt at work, they would be entitled to worker’s compensation to cover their medical expenses and they would be protected from losing their wages by law. Student athletes are afforded no such rights and yet their schools profit immensely from their skill.

So what can injured school athletes do about it? As many believe that the NCAA uses the term “student athlete” specifically to avoid compensation and workers compensation claims, for student athletes that are unfamiliar with the law, it may seem very hopeless. They may have to drop out of school and even get a job while still hurt specifically because they lost their scholarship and have medical bills to pay. That means so much potential is essentially buried under a mountain of debt.

However, while the area of student athletes and workers compensation or wage loss in terms of losing a scholarship is a very vague and new area of law, it will likely be a growing one. There have been numerous pushes for injured athletes to receive lost wages after they lost their scholarship, such as the case of former Rice University football player Joseph Agnew who sued the NCAA after losing his scholarship due to shoulder and ankle struggles.

In the case of Agnew, he actually won back his scholarship for his junior year, but he was still forced to pay for his senior year as well as his medical bills. However, his case shows that it is not completely hopeless for student athletes who lose their scholarships or are shouldered with huge medical bills, despite the fact that neither would fly if student athletes were at least treated like employees even if they aren’t paid.

If you are a student athlete who is facing huge medical bills and the loss of your scholarship, it is important that you don’t give up. The case isn’t hopeless. In fact, it is a growing problem among players that the NCAA has completely failed. With each injured player that stands up, it gives hope to the rest. If you need legal representation, you need a lawyer that isn’t afraid to fight for your future. If you are in the Minnesota area, contact us today. Whether it is injured workers or injured athletes that should be treated like workers, the Law Office of Joshua Borken is dedicated to fighting for you.