Bo Flournoy: College Athletes need to be given proper work benefits

Today, the gap between collegiate and professional athletics has never been closer. With that, college athletes should begin to be treated almost as if they are professionals because they essentially are. If collegiate athletes were treated as professionals, they would be able to take advantage of health insurance that the university would have to provide which could be necessary for some of these players risking their bodies.

There are many potential implications that could arise with the introduction of paying college athletes. Athletes at many of these major colleges are risking their bodies in order to play their sports and the NCAA starting to pay these players would be a little bit of compensation for the players risking life and limb for a game.

The NCAA reports there are 20,718 college football injuries a year, with 841 of those are spinal injuries. The National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research has recorded a steady rise in the number of football players who have permanent disability due to cervical cord and brain injuries. With these rising number of student athletes having serious injuries, they need to be compensated properly to ensure they are treated fairly. When it comes to protecting players, who generate billions of dollars every year, from having to pay unanticipated medical bills or ensuring they receive superior, impartial healthcare, there are no official NCAA provisions in place. So, in some cases, these athletes can be brought in on the promise of a good education but, if they get hurt on the field, they could lose their medical insurance right when they need it the most. One player who had to go through the reality of being ignored by his team and the NCAA as they never helped him with his extensive injuries was Stanley Doughty. Throughout his entire career at the University of South Carolina, he had been cleared to play by the team doctors but, when attempting to go pro after only three years at South Carolina, he had x-rays done for the Miami Dolphins  and according to the Doughty’s x-rays, “he was playing with a cervical spine injury. One hit in the wrong place could leave him paralyzed for life” (Walsh 1). These doctors at South Carolina decided not to give this young man the necessary medical attention that he needed to make it to the next level because it could have cost the university money and they decided that they would rather have their money than help this athlete. That’s why it is necessary for colleges to pay these athletes because, they are risking their bodies and are not guaranteed medical coverage from their college which could cost the athlete thousands of dollars in out of pocket costs for injuries they attained on the field. The athletes don’t even need to be paid for all of their services on the playing field but, they could at least be treated like the professionals that they essentially are by being provided healthcare for their injuries that they sustained on the field. If there was a person who worked at subway who got injured on the job, they would be paid disability payments even if the subway wasn’t at fault. But, a college athlete does not get guaranteed insurance for injuries that they can sustain on their playing field. Doughty now lives back at home with his parents after he was forced to move back in with them following his horrible experience with the University of South Carolina.

Competitors in the NCAA can accumulate thousands of dollars in medical bills that their university can choose not to help pay. Sports encourage physical activity, which help promote a healthy lifestyle. Moderate activity and exercise should be encouraged. However, the demands of Division I athletics may result in injuries that linger into adulthood and possibly make participants incapable of staying active as they age, thereby lowering their Health Related Quality of Life. Without the university helping the student pay their medical bills, the student athlete can accumulate a large amount of debt that can ruin their life or they can accrue injuries that affect them for a lifetime. Previous research has shown that “former athletes have an increase in degenerative changes in their joints and spine compared with nonathletes.”(Simon 424). Just by training with their team, they are hurting their bodies in order to please their coaches and they deserve some compensation for all that they are putting at risk. Joint and spine damage does not go away easily and usually the treatment for such injuries can cost thousands of dollars. And those colleges who exploited these athletes will usually not pay for the treatments because the athlete is no longer at the university. So, the athlete is totally on their own when it comes to these medical expenses. These athletes should not be taken advantage of anymore and they deserve to be paid because of the vicious injuries that they can accumulate on the field or even years after. And because if these athletes did get paid, maybe they would be able to fend for themselves.