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In my spare time, I coach soccer and while it doesn’t have the reputation, I can tell you that it’s a big time contact sport. As a result there are a ton of injuries. In fact on the high school team I helped out with this year we had a torn ACL, a broken elbow, a torn quad muscle, a broken arm, a severe concussion, multiple knee strains and multiple ankle injuries. Some were in practices, some were in games. We saw our opponents lose players to similar injuries and broken legs too.
The physicality at the professional level is much greater of course. If you ever see a MLS game up close you will see that it’s a grown man’s game and that players who hold on to the ball too long tend to get punished. Simply put, there’s no way to avoid injuries.
Professional athletes have the same rights under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act as any other workers do. Major League Soccer players for the most part don’t make a ton of money, at least not compared to other pro athletes and the injuries they suffer can have severe financial consequences for them.
Despite this, a search on the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission website only shows active cases for seven Chicago Fire players, most if not all who no longer play for the team. Players from other teams who get hurt while playing in Illinois can also bring cases here, but I’ve found no evidence of anyone having done that.
Simply put, these players are leaving money on the table and if they have career ending injuries or serious accidents like a torn ACL, we are talking big money. They also likely are only treating with the team doctors who might be looking out for the team when they could treat with a doctor of their own choosing if they wanted to.
It’s the same story in the WNBA where the Chicago Sky only has four active cases despite scores of injuries taking place. One of those cases is for Elena Delle Donne who might be the best player in the league and is no longer with the team. I get that some marginal players might be nervous to bring a case, but with both the MLS and WNBA, established players aren’t doing it either nor does it appear they are doing it when their careers are over due to injury.
I don’t know the unions for these teams, but I wonder if they are giving their members the best advice. These aren’t athletes who are able to retire when their careers are done and their careers are often cut short due to injury. Failure to file cases is essentially giving money they are entitled to back to their teams.
We have been involved in many cases for pro athletes, but whether you are in the NFL or work construction or are a CNA, we want all Illinois employees to exercise their rights. When one group doesn’t it has the ability to impact others.