Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck shocked the sports world last weekend when he announced his retirement from football at age 30. Luck’s difficulty in recovering from various injuries were a motivating factor in his retirement.
While it may be hard to conceive as a multi-millionaire elite-level NFL quarterback as an injured worker, work injuries certainly played a role in Luck’s retirement. Though Luck isn’t a typical injured worker, his case brings up at least four issues that many injured workers face after a work injury.
The stigma of a work injury – Luck was booed by some Colts “fans” after news of his retirement. Some of that could just be fans taking out their frustrations on a highly paid athlete. But injured workers are often accused of faking or milking injuries. In more vulgar terms, injured workers often get called “p—ies.” A lot of times those same criticisms are thrown at athletes by fans. I think criticisms of injured players and injured workers can overlap and reinforce themselves. “Get back in the game” and “get back to work” are often used interchangeably when used in reference to recovery from an injury.
Criticism of younger workers – Commentator Doug Gottlieb* called Luck’s retirement at age 30 as “the most millennial thing ever.” Gottlieb didn’t mean it as a compliment. Earlier this year I wrote about how millennials comprise about 2/3rds of work injuries in Nebraska. Criticism of millennials overlaps with criticism of injured workers. Under this mindset, since millennials are “soft”, they are going to milk or exaggerate work injuries.
The mental strain caused by injury – Luck spoke about the mental strain of having to work to recover from his various injuries. While mental injuries from physical injuries can be covered by workers’ compensation, there is no inherent pay in workers’ compensation for pain and suffering. Mental distress is only compensated to the extent that it impairs an injured workers’ ability to earn a living.
Doctors’ restrictions may not always be accurate – I assume that since Luck was suited up to play in the preseason that he had been released to play by his doctor. Luck appears to have believed otherwise. It’s fairly common for a workers’ belief about their restrictions not to match with doctors restrictions. At least in Nebraska, a plaintiff can to testify to their ability to work. Judges are called on to judge the credibility of that testimony. Most commentators, who aren’t Doug Gottlieb, found Luck to be credible. From speaking with other attorneys who have represented professional athletes, most judges find this type of testimony to be credible.
In my experience an injured worker doesn’t need to be an NFL quarterback in order to have their testimony about their ability to work to be found credible by a judge. But I’ve never seen an insurance company voluntarily pay disability benefits based on a claimant’s testimony.
*Doug Gottlieb referred to a Nebraska basketball player as a “punk” in 2009 because of a jump ball call in a game against Kansas.