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Do NFL players get paid when they are injured? Who pays for the players’ medical bills?

NFL players run the risk of getting injured whenever they get on the field. When they do get hurt, do their salaries take a hit as well?

NFL players run the risk of getting injured whenever they get on the field. When they do get hurt, do their salaries take a hit as well?

Professional football is a high-risk sport, and players can get injured, sometimes seriously, whenever they play. NFL players get paid handsomely, but who foots their medical bills and what happens to their pay when they are sidelined?

Players are the biggest assets of any football team, but they are sometimes considered disposable, and are dropped if they have one too many injuries. Missing too much playing time is a quick way to permanently lose one’s spot on the team.

When a players breaks a bone, gets carted off the field, or is checked for possible concussions, they thankfully receive some measure of protection when it comes to paying medical bills and getting compensated when they are unable to play.

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The NFLPA's role

One way they are protected is by being members of the National Football League Players Association or NFLPA. Being part of the players’ union ensures they are covered by collective bargaining agreements (CBA) that give them some medical rights.

When a player gets injured, he is examined by the club doctor, who determines if he is physically able or unable to play football. The CBA makes sure that he has the right to seek a second opinion if he so wishes, and that the club will pay for this. If an operation is needed, he can choose the surgeon for the procedure after consulting with the club physician. The CBA makes certain the club pays for all medical bills.

The power of the contract

What about their salary?

Although the CBA affords players some security, it is also important for the players to protect themselves through the individual contracts that they sign with a team. As the NFL is a business run by extremely wealthy people, the players must make sure they have legal rights when they get injured, as they can be considered by the organization as less profitable or non-performing assets, and may even be eventually discarded.

Players can have a guarantee clause in their deals which assures them of receiving X amount of money when they are hurt. They will have this protection if they suffer “football-related injuries”. The CBA makes sure that the club is obliged to pay the players while they are doing rehab for their injury, and provide salary continuation for the year in which the injury was sustained.

The amount of money a player receives while injured or recovering from an injury depends on what has been agreed upon in the contract.

If the players are hurt because they were exercising at a facility outside of team supervision, this will be considered as falling under “non-football injuries”, and as such will not benefit from the protection given by the NFLPA. With non-football injuries, it is left to the discretion of the team as to whether the player is to be paid.


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