College Support After an Injury
Any player participating in a collegiate sport, whether it has contact or no contact, has a risk of running into an injury. In fact a sever injury can end an athlete’s career and change their lives. Travis Roy, a Boston University Hockey player, crashed into the board headfirst on his first ever college shift in 1995, cracking his fourth and fifth vertebra to leave him paralyzed. But after these kind of career-ending injuries, what kind of support do these athletes receive?
According to NCAA, every player upon joining a Division 1 team must have insurance and undergo a medical exam before their participation. Even though the insurance is not specified, NCAA does offer a few insurance programs themselves. The Catastrophic Injury Insurance Program covers athletes who “are catastrophically injured while participating in a covered intercollegiate athletics activity.” This policy has a $90,000 deductible. The Exceptional Student-Athlete Disability Insurance program also offers protection against loss of earnings as a professional athlete after a disabling injury during their college career. This program covers athletes who participate in Football, Basketball, Baseball, and Men’s Ice Hockey. But is this really enough?
Many athletes from low-income environments depend on the institutions health care system and scholarships to be able to attend these schools and participate in the NCAA. But according to the Division 1 Manual, there is no provision that prohibits a coach from taking away a scholarship after an athlete becomes injured. So if a student athlete receives a career ending injury, they would receive aid through insurance but will run a risk to be ineligible to attend the academic institution. Also because of the mandatory insurance policy, athletic directors have the choice to refuse to pay medical bills related to these injuries. According to NCAA reports, there are about 20,000 college injuries just in the sport of football. But the support an athlete receives after an injury can change their lives completely.
Stanley Doughty, a defensive tackle drafted by the Chiefs who attended University of South Carolina is one of the many cases in this situation. Growing up in poverty, the scholarship was the only way he could attend a college. But after being drafted by the Chiefs 12 credits short from graduation, the team found an injury in his spine that could leave Doughty paralyzed after a unfortunate hit. The injury was caused by two major hits during his career at South Carolina but was never treated because of decisions by the team doctor. The contract with the Chiefs was terminated and Doughty was left hanging without a job and a degree. After the incident the University denied his request to pay for surgery and the NCAA’s insurance could not cover this case because it was not attended to during his career at South Carolina. The University also did not offer him a re-entrance into the school to finish the 12 credits for graduation because he was not on the scholarship anymore.
Like Stanley Doughty’s case, there is a lack of support by the institution after an athlete’s injury even with all these programs installed by the NCAA. But people have been recently trying to solve this problem by getting universities to acknowledge these athletes as employees rather than just student athletes. For example if a Men’s Hockey Coach accidentally slips on ice and hits his head, the university will compensate his costs because he is an employee of the university. But if a player slips and falls after his coach tells him to skate aggressively, the school does not have an obligation to compensate because he is a student and not an employee. Even though these are small steps, there are some signs of improvement in support for injured players.
There are drawbacks in the life of an ex-athlete. Whether their life becomes good or bad after their college career, their education and how they were invested in themselves during their academic career play a big role in their future. When athletes are still in college, their job requires a lot of time and energy. They become so busy and focused on athletics that it gets really hard for some of them to make a transition from that kind of life into a normal one after their career.
The main reason sports becomes part of their lives is that they have their hearts invested. They commit a lot to their teams and their colleges and become so determined. During their career in college, every detail of their life is scheduled, whether they need to eat, what they need to eat, time to practice, and when to sleep. Their lives are completely directed by the coaches and their sport. Most athletes have been playing sports for their whole lives, and it is something they can’t just let go because the sport is a part of who they are.
Transitioning to life after collegiate athletics is new experience to most of the players. Some Athletes manage to maintain their lives and others fail to achieve their goals as they had hoped. Only a few of them make it to professional sports. They have to make a positive transition to life after athletics in terms of career, healthy living, family life and the real word. Some of the big challenges that athletes face includes taking responsibilities for their own lives. For example, when an athlete is still in college, their focus is primarily athletics. However, when they get out of college, they have to start thinking about life outside their sport.
Physically, student athletes benefit greatly from participation. The athletes’ experience provides social, physical, emotional, spiritual and mental benefits. However, when athletes are out of college and not make it into professional sports, some may face issues like stress, healthy issues and finding job difficulties.
According to Mark Doman, CEO of the Doman Group, who spends most of his time educating athletes about their money and enhancing their financial literacy, told Huffington post that” There is an obvious disconnect between what people think these athletes make versus what they actually have in the bank and this leads to very difficult and unpleasant conversations with people. Some don’t even have basic skills of savings.”
Doman stated, “Athletes ‘lack of preparation’ for life after sports is major problem because these athletes have trained their entire lives to become professional.”
Sports dreams are not always a reality, and most student athletes have not had an opportunity to develop another skill set that will ensure their ability to earn a living when their pro career comes to an end, if it starts at all. The savings they have by 27 often ends up being gone out within a few short years. Student athletes commit to their sport 100%. But, as a result, they are not always prepared for the lives that lay ahead of them if they do not make it into the pros.