Opinion: Health care for ASU football players is inadequate

ASU football players need better health care because of the dangers inherent in playing the sport, including long-term health risks.

More than 250,000 NCAA injuries have been estimated between 2014 and 2019. Long-term health is also a factor, as a growing field of research has established that college football players “experience brain-related issues as they get older.”

As the world witnessed on January 2, Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest on the field. It was a terrifying moment that, unfortunately, fit into the larger context of the extreme danger that comes with playing football.

Given these inherent risks, college football players at ASU and around the United States need quality health care and health insurance both in the short and long term.

Under NCAA rules, athletes are required to have a basic health and accident plan. Most Division I universities offer this basic sponsorship, but they are not required to do so. Depending on their insurance coverage, players can be exposed to significant out-of-pocket expenses.

There are two types of health and accident plans offered by the NCAA: the Catastrophic Injury Insurance Program and the Exceptional Student and Athlete Disability Insurance Program.

The catastrophic injury insurance program operates with a $90,000 deductible, which means it starts as soon as you pay $90,000 through various coverages. However, an important limitation of the program is that an athlete can only use it if they report an injury within two years.

Athletes who learn of their injuries later in life will be excluded from politics. This is especially true of the long-term effects of a concussion, such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy and Alzheimer’s disease.

The Exceptional Student Athlete Disability Program provides insurance to outstanding athletes in the event of a career-ending injury. However, like other programs, it has limitations. Players have to prove they have a high professional stock, in a somewhat opaque process, and they also have to pay high premiums if the program is activated.

Disability coverage comes into effect if the athlete is disabled while playing their sport. But if they can work a full-time job after the injury, the insurance benefits can be cut to zero. That’s just for full disability benefits, too; Partial disability benefits can be further reduced because it is assumed that the player can still function in some capacity.

The insurance programs that are provided to college football players are not enough. This is particularly the case given the nature of long-term injuries, especially head injuries, inherent to the sport. ASU should do its best to ensure that all Sun Devil athletes have long-term coverage if they need it, even outside of the time the player is playing for the team.

“All schools can always provide additional insurance coverage,” said Aaron Hernandez, director of the Sports and Business Law Program at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.

Outside of ASU and the NCAA, the Pac-12 Conference helps provide coverage for athletes who need coverage after their college career ends.

“Specifically, for ASU players… four years after the separation, Pac-12 athletes are still subject to coverage for injuries and medical expenses associated with athletics,” said Hernandez.

However, like other programs, it does not cover long-term injuries after those four years, and it can be difficult to prove injuries occurred when participating in athletics.

It is true that the benefits described are better than what most people get in the United States. But, it is also true that health insurance standards in the United States are very low. According to a study by the Commonwealth Fund in 2021, the United States ranked last in a study of 11 high-income countries on each country’s healthcare system. the difference? All other countries have some form of universal health care.

This phenomenon is not separate from the insurance that soccer players receive in the United States, but rather closely related to it. Athletes have to contend with a healthcare system that is complex and inadequate for higher education because it is part of the broader flawed US system.

Just like everyone else working in the United States, a large portion of college football players’ health care is tied to their jobs — even though they’re not legally classified as employees (yet).

It’s an unfair system that prioritizes money over human life, and in the case of dangerous sports like college football, the need for life-affirming health care couldn’t be more prevalent.

ASU must provide better care for its multimillion-dollar athletes, and athletes and the general public must demand a health care system that allows people to live freely and well instead of being trapped and beaten.

Edited by Piper Hansen, Yasmin Kabiri and Kaira Learmonth.


Reach out to the columnist at astigile@asu.edu and follow him @tweet on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not imply endorsement by Country Press or its editors.

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Aaron StegelOpinion writer

Aaron Stegel is an opinion columnist for The State Press. He previously wrote for The Defiant Movement and is working towards his BA in Journalism and Mass Communication. He is also working toward a minor in Spanish and a certification in cross-sector leadership.


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