Sports Injury Work Comp

In Dennis McKinley v. Arizona Cardinals, California’s Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board declined to exercise the state’s jurisdiction over the case, in effect upholding the terms of the athlete’s original contract with the team. The contract states: “… Claims for workers’ compensation shall be filed with the Industrial Commission of Arizona, and the parties agree that they shall be subject to the workers’ compensation laws of the State of Arizona, and of no other state.”

In this case, McKinley spent his entire four-year career (1999-2003) as a professional football player with the Arizona Cardinals. He was not a California resident, entered his

Employment contracts in Arizona, and played only seven of his 80 professional games in California, along with a five-day training camp.

When a trial judge ruled in favor of the Cardinals, the player’s counsel appealed. The Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board subsequently held that while California technically has jurisdiction over the Cardinals and the player’s claim, it may decline to exercise that jurisdiction when there is a “reasonable mandatory forum selection clause” (such as the clause in McKinley’s contract with the team).

Although California’s labor code has an exemption for employers who meet certain criteria, the board did not affirm that the court should automatically exercise California jurisdiction if the employer cannot meet those criteria. The Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board in the McKinley case acknowledged the defendant failed to introduce evidence for such an exemption, but continued analyzing the issue of jurisdiction.

Ultimately, the board’s ruling that California jurisdiction did not apply hinged on two factors:

1. The forum selection clause in the Cardinals’ contract: The parties had already agreed on a forum convenient and reasonable to both (and the board had a prolonged discussion as to why Arizona was the best forum).

2. The board repeatedly stressed the applicant’s limited connections with California (only seven games out of 40 out-of-state games stretching over 16 states, and an additional 40 games in Arizona) as a reason to decline jurisdiction.
Significantly, the board deemed forum selection clauses to be presumed valid, unless:

They were the product of fraud or overreaching (assuming the contract is valid).

There is not a reasonable forum for workers’ compensation for the applicant.

The forum is not convenient for the applicant.

The clause is contrary to California fundamental public policy.

The decision affirms that the appeals board can decline to exercise California jurisdiction over certain workers’ compensation cases. However, in cases involving California-based teams or contracts formed in California, the board will likely enforce California jurisdiction.

McKinley’s counsel has appealed the decision with the California Court of Appeals. Even so, the door may be open for non-California sports teams, their workers’ compensation insurers, and other defendants to argue the court should not exercise jurisdiction for out-of-state players for out-of-state teams, even if there is no forum selection clause.

Subsequent to the decision in McKinley, the appeals board issued another decision in the case of Michael McKenzie v. Green Bay Packers. There, the McKinley analysis was applied and the appeals board declined to exercise California jurisdiction on account of the forum selection clause. McKenzie played for the Packers and the New Orleans Saints from 1999 through 2008, and during his career, participated in a short training camp and approximately nine to 12 games in California. He was not a California resident and did not sign his contract in California. He started his career with the Packers and was traded to the Saints in October 2004, but did not sign a new contract with the Saints until July 2005. All contracts included a forum selection clause for Wisconsin and Louisiana, respectively.

The trial judge declined to exercise California jurisdiction and the player’s attorney appealed, arguing that after McKenzie was traded from the Packers to the Saints, the forum selection clause of the Packers contract was void as a new contract with the Saints was not executed until July 2005. This argument was rejected.

Also in McKenzie, the appeals board rejected the application of the “relation back doctrine.” This doctrine typically allows an injured worker to search backward through his or her employment history until an employer is found with sufficient workers’ compensation insurance coverage. McKenzie’s attorney tried to go back through his client’s playing career to find a time when he played without a forum selection clause in his contract and burden that team with the provision of California workers’ compensation benefits. This was rejected as the court refused to allow this doctrine to be used to avoid enforcement of a forum selection clause.

While the appeals board is taking a strong stance, a bill that would limit the rights of out-of-state professional athletes to collect California workers’ compensation benefits is slowly moving through the California Legislature. AB 1309, which has passed the Assembly and awaits action by the Senate, would amend the current laws defining a cumulative trauma injury with respect to professional athletes. Typically, employers within the last year of the cumulative trauma injury period are liable to provide benefits: This currently is defined as the year prior to the last game played in California for any team. The bill would change this, defining the last year as the actual last year the athlete played for a professional team.

More importantly, the bill would define out-of-state athletes as temporary employees, who are exempt from California workers’ compensation benefits if the team has workers’ comp coverage in their home state and that other state has reciprocal extraterritorial provisions recognizing the California workers’ comp system. The Assembly added the “Joe Montana Exception,” where an athlete may pursue a claim if employed for eight or more consecutive seasons by a California-based employer, or at least 80 percent of the athlete’s employment occurred while with a California-based employer. The bill would apply these changes to all pending claims for benefits.

We anticipate significant changes within the next several months, from both the California legislative and judicial bodies, which may eliminate the complexity and sheer volume of out-of-state athletes filing for claims in California.

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Steroids

My Advice to Potential Users:

If you don’t have what it takes, forget about it – no drug can give you willpower, determination and hard discipline!

That being said, in my law practice as well as in my days as an Olympic athlete, I have encountered the abuse of steroids on every level, sometimes justifiable (such as in treatment of injuries) but mostly only in order to improve recovery and performance. I have also seen athletes use cocaine and abuse alcohol in order to recover faster and regain composure before the race.

Unfortunately, some top athletes who “have what it takes” have been unjustly accused of drug abuse and, given the “bad rap” all steroids have, the scales of justice and fairness are heavily tilted against them from the get-go.

Steroids are medications, drugs that have their place in medicine. Their effect is limited and side effects unforeseeable, because they depend on the individual proclivities and body and mind constitution. Further, even outside the scope of purely medical use, they can only help in certain combinations, in limited amount and for a limited time, on which account, the following needs to be emphatically stated:

  • Steroids are legally manufactured for medical uses in treatment of anemia, severe burns, and some types of breast cancer.
  • Steroids are banned in almost all sports; any athlete found using them is usually disqualified or suspended for a long time and stripped of any titles they may have gained while they were using steroids.
  • There is widespread use of steroids in the sport of body building due to the ability of steroids to increase muscle growth along with weight training.
  • Some athletes practice “steroid stacking” by using three or more kinds of oral or injectable steroids to get quicker results in their physique.
  • Injectable steroids result in the risk of spreading or contracting infections such as Hepatitis or HIV when sharing needles.
  • Steroid users risk more than 70 side effects, which includes physical and psychological reactions like jaundice, stroke, acne, liver tumors, mood swings, low or high sex drive, aggressive behavior and others included in the list of short-term and long-term effects below.
  • Steroid users often take from 20 to 200 times the recommended dosage to build muscles.

Steroids Impact on Your Body
Steroids affect your heart.

Steroid abuse has been associated with cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke. These heart problems can happen to athletes under the age of 30.

Steroids affect your liver and kidneys.

Steroids can cause high blood pressure and kidney and liver tumors. Steroid use can also cause blood-filled cysts to develop in the liver. Both the tumors and cysts can rupture, causing internal bleeding.

Steroids affect your appearance.

In both sexes, steroids can cause male-pattern baldness, cysts, acne, and oily hair and skin.

Steroids can affect your growth.

Under normal conditions, sex hormones trigger growth spurts during puberty and also signal the body to stop growing when they reach a certain level. When teens take steroids, the resulting high sex hormone levels can signal bones to prematurely stop growing, stunting the user’s growth.

Steroids affect gender-specific features:

  • For women-growing of facial hair, shrinking of the breasts, deepened voice, masculine changes in the shape of the face, and cessation of the menstrual cycle.
  • For men-shrinking of the testicles, development of breasts (gynecomastia), and infertility.

Steroids affect your mood.

Steroids can make you angry and hostile for no reason. This is commonly referred to as “roid rage.” This can also include suicidal thoughts and/or attempts, fatigue, restlessness, loss of appetite, and insomnia. There are many cases of steroids causing users to become violent towards themselves and others. Some users developed behavioral problems that were so extreme that they could not function within their workplace or society.

Steroids increase your risk of infection.

Sharing needles or using dirty needles to inject steroids puts you at risk for diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis. Because many steroids are imported illegally, they can be tainted with bacteria, toxins, or other dangerous byproducts.

Steroids are addictive.

Withdrawal symptoms include mood swings, suicidal thoughts and/or attempts, fatigue, restlessness, loss of appetite; desire to take more steroids, and insomnia.

Know the Risks

Steroids are illegal to possess without a prescription from a licensed physician. It is illegal for individuals to sell steroids. Some illegal steroids are made overseas and smuggled into the United States or made in underground labs domestically. They pose greater health risks because they are not regulated by the government and may not be pure or labeled correctly.

Signs of Abuse

How can you tell if a friend is abusing steroids? Sometimes it’s hard to tell. But there are signs you can look for. If your friend has one or more of the following warning signs, he or she may be abusing steroids:

For Men

  • Baldness
  • Development of breasts
  • Impotence

For Women

  • Growth of facial hair
  • Deepened voice
  • Breast reduction

For Both Genders

  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin)
  • Swelling of feet or ankles
  • Aching joints
  • Bad breath
  • Mood swings
  • Nervousness
  • Trembling

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Professional Sports

Professional sports are a textbook example of a bilateral cartel made up of club owners and unionized players engaged in intrastate and interstate commerce. The club owners exercise monopoly power in the product market and monopsony power in the input market, whereas, the players try to countervail that monopsony power. In economics, a monopsony is a market with only one buyer in the market, often an input market. At the same time, this is analogous to the case of a monopoly in which there is only one seller in a market. These cartels confront each other in a love/hate, cooperation/conflict relationship with neither being strong enough to exercise total dominance over the other

The professional sports industry is a very unique entity. As an entity, it controls both activities and attitudes, solicits actions and reactions, and demands the immediate attention of fans, arbitrators, mediators, lawyers, judges, players, television networks, and management. However, as an entity, it is regulated as a business activity with and without exemptions from the federal government.
Historically, antitrust law has played a role in developing regulations, controls, and protections in the professional sports industry of today. Laws that include such major statutes as the Sherman Act of 1890, the Clayton Act of 1914, the Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914, the Norris-LaGuardia Act of 1932, the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, and other antitrust and labor relations acts. Court decisions and/or interpretations include such parties as: Federal Baseball Club of Baltimore, Inc. v. National League of Professional Baseball Clubs, 259 U.S. 200 (1922); Flood v. Kuhn, 407 U.S. 258, (1972); Haywood v. NBA, 401 U.S. 1204 (1971); Brown v. Pro Football, Inc., 116 S.Ct. 2116 (1996) and Wood v. NBA, 809 F.2d 954 (2d Cir. 1987). Also, there is a history of concepts relating to protections and guarantees to all parties involved in the professional sports industry. Case studies show that in baseball, the “reserve clause” was the owner’s primary weapon for eliminating free competition in the market for players. Once a team obtained contractual rights to a player, it enjoyed exclusive rights to his services. Unless those rights were waived, traded, sold, or otherwise assigned to another team, the player was literally owned by the team with which he signed the original contract. Also, certain sports in the professional sports industry are classified as with antitrust labor exemption, whenever the players can file complaints with the government alleging unfair labor practices or without antitrust labor exemption, whenever the players cannot file complaints with the government alleging unfair labor practices.

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Shoulder Injury

coracromial+ligamentEach year, millions of people see orthopedists with some kind of shoulder injury. Out of these, more than 60 percent are rotator cuff problems. The remaining forty percent are predominantly upper arm sprains and strains.

Shoulder injuries are frequently caused by activities that involve excessive, repetitive, overhead motion, such as swimming, tennis, pitching, and weightlifting. However, injuries can also occur during everyday activities such as washing walls, hanging curtains, and gardening.

Contrary to the popular view, the weaker the shoulder, the more prone to injury. I state “popular” because most physicians recommend a complete rest when the patient reports any pain. Pain, however, can be “good” and “bad.” The former is the kind of pain that strengthens you. Unfortunately, you often need to go through the former to avoid the latter. Thus, even “doing nothing” – and especially doing nothing – can cause you some form of injury and pain.

Indicators that something is not in order: stiffness, limited rotation, popping sounds, lack of strength to carry out everyday activities.

Most problems in the shoulder involve the muscles, ligaments, and tendons, rather than the bones. Most pain results from the “rubbing” of the bones due to the inflamed coracoacromial ligament, which is a strong triangular band extending between the coracroid process and the acromion, part of the protection of the head of the humerus.

This ligament is sometimes described as consisting of two marginal bands and a thinner intervening portion, the two bands being attached respectively to the apex and the base of the coracoid process, and joining together at the acromion. Most of our shoulder pain originates from the scraping of this ligament and its inflammation. This is referred to as IMPINGEMENT.

Impingement is caused by excessive rubbing of the shoulder muscles against the top part of the shoulder blade, called the acromion. Impingement takes place when we are not warmed-up and make a sudden extensive motion, “overreach” with the arm. It can happen after sitting in the office for a long time and then swinging a heavy bag on the seat or into the trunk of your car.

INSTABILITY and DISLOCATION constitute one type for problems. These are indicated when raising your arm causes you pain or when you feel as if the joint was “slipping out of place.”

The ROTATOR CUFF is one of the most important components of the shoulder. It is comprised of a group of muscles and tendons that hold the bones of the shoulder joint together and enable you to lift your arm and reach overhead.

Shoulder Exercises
Any push-ups and press-ups (on the floor or against the wall) focus on the front deltoid. They do not strengthen and repair impingement, in fact, in my experience, may make it worse. They can aid instability and dislocation though.

The only exercise, guaranteed to help impingement, the pain you probably suffer from, is simply hanging from a horizontal bar, which extends the gap for the coracoacromial ligament. In conjunction with lateral dumbbell raises (high rep, low weight), it is definitely worth trying before you decide for any surgery. Give it 4-6 weeks, 10 minutes a day.

Anti-inflammatory medication (Ibuprofen) also may be prescribed to reduce pain and swelling, thus facilitate recovery. I do not recommend complete rest, unless you have suffered from a torn rotator cuff or a severe injury (result of an accident) or when otherwise indicated by your orthopedist.

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Medial Epicondylitis (Golfer’s Elbow)

Summary of Condition
Medial epicondylitis is also called “little league” elbow.   Medial epicondylitis illustrates a snapping motion of the elbow in pronation or a motion such as throwing breaking balls in baseball causing stress on the medial side of the elbow.  This results in an injuring of the radioulnar pronator cuff muscle inserting on the inner condylar ridge of the humerus.

Benefits of Stretching
After the elbow is healed and free movement is permitted by the physician, restore the range of motion with gentle stretching.  If the injury is mild, begin stretching of the elbows, radioulnar, wrists and hands.  Strengthen the elbow flexors and extensors, radioulnar pronators and supinators with small weights.  Progression to stretching bands or surgical tubing is permitted when the subject is pain free.  Incorporate the use of a rubber band and a soft ball for the hands and fingers.  Ice massage and stretch the muscles frequently. An ace wrap for gentle support is helpful.

Wrist Flexion
Muscles stretched are the wrist and forearm extensor muscles.  The muscles contracted are the wrist flexor muscles.  You begin the stretch by extending the elbow, slowly flexing the wrist downward by contracting the wrist flexor muscles.  Apply a gentle stretch across the posterior (dorsal) hand with the opposite hand.

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