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Is NFL workers' compensation ruling relevant to Wisconsin athletes?

A recent court case involving an out-of-state NFL player may spark the interest of Wisconsin athletes. The case involved former punter Tom Tupa, who suffered a back injury during a preseason warm up game in 2005. The case began shortly after the accident when Tupa was unable to return to the field. He filed for workers' compensation benefits, a decision that would be before the court for years before a final decision was reached.

In August, an appeals court ruled that Tupa's back injury was compensable. The court stated that there was enough evidence to show that the injury occurred during the 'course of his employment.' The case brought up interesting questions, however, that may affect NFL players in other states. One question was whether pro football injuries are considered accidents under state workers' compensation laws. The other was jurisdiction.

Tupa played for the Washington Redskins whose headquarters is located in Virginia; however, it was a Maryland court that decided the case. This case brought to light an interesting point that reminds us that football players are employees like many of us, and may be entitled to the same benefits if injured on the job. While this case does not have any immediate bearing on Wisconsin laws, athletes in our state may remember this case if they get injured.

Wisconsin is home to one of the most popular NFL teams, the Green Bay Packers. While it is true that football players are tasked with meeting the demands of an active and physical form of employment, they are not exempt from the same rights as every other industry. Athletes in our state who become injured may benefit from investigating their rights and seeking out what workers' compensation benefits may be available to them.

Source: Insurance Journal, "Maryland Court: Former NFL Punter Eligible for Workers' Comp," Aug. 24, 2012

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