Workers’ compensation is a system that is designed to compensate workers for workplace injuries. Professional athletes who are injured make the news all the time, but it is not very often that an injury to a professional athlete makes the news because of a workers’ compensation case. However, an injury to an NFL player has recently done just that.
Tom Tupa was injured during warm-ups for a Washington Redskins preseason game in 2005. The 18-year NFL veteran injured his lower back and was unable to return to the field for the rest of the season. Additionally, Tupa was also unable to return to the NFL the following season as a result of his injury.
According to the Washington Examiner, Tupa filed a Maryland workers’ compensation claim in 2007 in order to receive disability benefits from the Redskins. The state ordered Tupa’s former team to pay for his medical costs and provide him with disability benefits. However, the Redskins did not want to pay Tupa and challenged the ruling. The Redskins challenged the ruling by arguing that the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission had no jurisdiction because the team’s practice field is located outside of the state.
This month, the Court of Appeals rejected the Redskins’ argument on the basis that Tupa was employed to play in games, which are played in Maryland, and not practices. The court ordered that the Redskins pay Tupa for more than a year of disability benefits, but the exact dollar amount remains unknown.
According to USA Today, Tupa earned $1.4 million as the Redskins punter during the 2004 season. Tupa played for seven teams during his nearly 20-year career with the NFL. Currently, Tupa is working as a recreation director for the city of Brecksville, Ohio.
Source: NBC, “Ex-Redskins Punter Wins Disability Benefits,” 3/7/2011