California bill limiting workers’ comp claims by athletes advances

Football player Deion Sanders is shown in 2000, when he played for the Washington Redskins. He has a workers' compensation claim pending in California for head trauma and other injuries sustained while playing for the Dallas Cowboys.
(Jonathan Ferrey / Getty Images)

SACRAMENTO -- An effort by the National Football League and owners of other professional sports teams to limit workers’ compensation claims by out-of-state athletes is close to final passage in the California Legislature.

The measure cleared the state Senate on Friday on a 34-2 vote. In May, it passed the Assembly on a 61-4 tally.

The 10 most dangerous jobs

The proposal is expected to win final passage next week in the Assembly and to be on the governor’s desk shortly after the scheduled Sept. 13 legislative recess.

Because of its liberally interpreted workplace injury laws, California has become the de facto forum of last resort for so-called cumulative trauma claims, including head injuries, by retired players. Many of them may have participated in just a handful of games in California over the course of their careers.


The crackdown on athletes’ workers’ compensation claims has been the focus of a major lobbying campaign by the NFL and other pro-sports leagues. Former athletes have filed more than 4,400 claims involving head and brain injuries since 2006.

Such claims represent an estimated potential $1-billion liability for the NFL alone.

The bill, AB 1309 by Assemblyman Henry T. Perea (D-Fresno), does not affect players who spent their careers with California-based football, baseball, basketball, hockey and soccer teams.

However, it bans claims from athletes who played for California teams for less than two seasons, and those who played for California teams at least two seasons but spent seven or more seasons with non-California teams.

Gov. Jerry Brown has not indicated whether he will sign the bill if it gets to him.


Brain injuries a big problem for NFL in California

Athlete workers’ comp limits are headed to goal line

Deion Sanders has head injury comp claim pending in California