Worker's Compensation Laws and the Athlete
This chapter addresses the general issue of whether athletes are "employees" as that term is used in most worker's compensation schemes. In regard to the professional athlete, the issue is not so difficult. It is easy to see, for example, that an athlete on a professional team is an employee of that team. A difficult issue is whether individual performers (tennis players, golfers, or jockeys) can properly be viewed as employees for worker's compensation purposes. The most vexing questions arise in the context of the scholarship athlete. Are scholarship athletes "employees" of the educational institution which provides them with the scholarship? Before delving into these problems, a brief general note about worker's compensation is in order.
Every American jurisdiction has enacted some form of a worker's compensation law. Generally, worker's compensation schemes make the employer strictly liable for an injury to an employee that occurs within the scope of employment. An employee within the protection of the act, in turn, agrees that the statutory remedy is the sole remedy against the employer and thus waives the right to pursue a common law action against the employer. The rationale for the imposition of strict liability is that the employer is in the best position to bear the costs connected with such injuries. The theory is that injuries to workers are properly absorbed as a cost of doing business--in the same manner as equipment losses are absorbed. Such losses are inherent in business and are appropriately viewed as a production cost to be passed on to consumers.
Worker's compensation statutes typically require that the employer secure insurance to cover the costs of such injuries. Insurance rates are often regulated by the state so that the burden is spread evenly over