Tom Tupa was a longtime punter in the NFL whose name may ring a bell to North Carolina football fans. Back in 2005, he suffered a back injury while warming up for a pre-season football game. After punting the ball, he landed awkwardly. He immediately felt a sharp pain his lower back. He needed medical treatment during which he described a jarring sensation. Though he received medication for the pain, he never fully recovered from the injury he suffered that day.
When he realized his career was over from this work-related injury, Tupa filed for workers’ compensation coverage. Both the team he had been playing for as well as their insurer challenged the claim. They questioned whether the injury was an accident. They also challenged whether his disability and inability to work resulted from the 2005 back injury.
In 2008, Tupa was able to prove to the state’s workers’ compensation commission that his injury was an accident that he suffered during the course of his employment. As a result, the commission awarded Tupa partial disability benefits and medical expenses.
The team and the insurer decided to continue disputing this workers’ compensation claim by heading to court and seeking a jury trial.
Despite the rough nature of the sport, the court found that football injuries can be eligible for workers’ compensation coverage. The jury then decided that Tupa did sustain an accidental injury while on the job. They also found that the disability is connected to the accidental injury that took place while he was warming up for the game in 2005.
The team and insurer appealed this decision, but the appellate court recently agreed that football-related injuries do qualify for workers’ compensation coverage.
Source: Fox Carolina, “Court: Ex-NFL punter eligible for workers comp,” Brian White, Aug 22, 2012