Who Foots the Bills for the Football System’s Predictable Catastrophic Medical Costs? We All Do – That Is, Until No One Does

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When I argue that the $10-billion-a-year National Football League is behaving as just about any corporate entity would – trying to shirk its responsibility for a public health tab – bear in mind that we’re talking about quite a tab.

And it’s not all concussions and it’s not all death. Last month a CBS News report estimated that there are 140,000 annual “mild to severe spinal injuries” in high school football, with 10 resulting in paralysis. (See http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7376583n&tag=mncol;lst;1.) I suspect alternative methodologies might set the former number lower and the latter higher. Whatever the statistical sweet spot, the existence of a substantial and unacknowledged subsidy is clear, as catastrophic medical costs for spinal injuries can run to $500,000 for just the first six months.

As I post this item, I know of at least two young football players who lie comatose from early-season brain (not spinal) injuries: Adrian Padilla in California and Tucker Montgomery in Tennessee. See https://concussioninc.net/?p=4646.

Rasul “Rocky” Clark – who was left paraplegic by an injury in a high school game 11 years ago and recently had to downgrade his care under changes in Illinois Medicaid policies – was the focus of the CBS story. The Clark case was also covered by the Chicago Tribune at http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-08-31/news/ct-met-rocky-clark-insurance-0831-20110831_1_medicaid-program-hmo-style-new-doctors#.TnjzC5mJFhE.email.

Let me emphasize that this is about more than health insurance reform. Clark’s now-inadequate Medicaid coverage itself only kicked in after his suburban Chicago school district’s $5 million catastrophic health insurance policy benefits dried up.

You say that playing football is a “personal choice and risk”? Indeed it is: a personal choice and risk for which all American are paying through the nose — both daily and for as far into the future as the mind’s eye can see.


Irv Muchnick

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Concussion Inc. - Author Irvin Muchnick