Monday, February 3, 2014

Stupor Bowl And The Numbers

The Super Bowl played out on national television yesterday and millions of people enjoyed (I think) the show (or at least the half time show), even though Denver lost the game on the very first play.

The day before former Miami Dolphins Super Bowl player, Richard Diana, who is now an orthopedic surgeon, had his op-ed published in the Los Angeles Times. While acknowledging that brain injuries are a huge problem in the NFL and has received deserved attention, Dr. Diana also brings about another sobering observation of these professional athletes:

"For every Tony Dorsett (the former Dallas Cowboy star reportedly diagnosed with degenerative brain disease), there is a roomful of less well-known players suffering from the consequences of joint trauma," he writes.

Citing a 2009 University of Michigan study of retired NFL players concluded that "the most striking difference between NFL retirees and the general population" is that the former players younger than 50 were nearly five times more likely to have arthritis than comparable men in the general population. Former players older than 50 have twice the rate of arthritis as their non-player peers.

Dr. Diana prescribes a number of lifestyle changes that the players (employees) themselves should be instigating after retiring from the game: dietary changes, exercise appropriate for arthritis, and other changes that these folks need to be re-trained to do as a routine basis for their lives.

"The NFL knows that its supersized players are at high risk of developing arthritis. Now it should make sure they are educated about the types of diet and exercise that could prevent it or make it less severe," he says.

"The health problems of all athletes, pro and amateur, should be of national concern. But the evolving treatments for osteoarthritis are encouraging. Moreover, we don't need to change the rules of the game to have a major effect — just the habits of those who played it so well."

How much of Dr. Diana's prescription is applicable to the general work world? Isn't this what the occupational health experts have been saying for years, albeit into the vast void of the information dumping grounds?

In another article published that same date in the LA Times it was disclosed that the deadline for filing continuous trauma claims against NFL teams resulted in over 1,000 new claims being submitted.

In the first two weeks of September, current and retired players filed 569 claims against NFL franchises, 283 claims against Major League Baseball clubs, 113 against National Hockey League teams and 79 against NBA squads, a Los Angeles Times analysis of state workers' compensation data found.

The Times says that most of the claims were brought by players who never played for a California team: "they filed claims based on repetitive injuries they say were sustained in part during road games played in the state."

The Times says that the months long battle over the new California law created much more attention to the issue and alerted players and their attorneys to make sure they were not prohibited from seeking relief in the future.

Three quarter of the NFL claims alleged some brain or head injury. 90% of pro hockey claims and about half of baseball player claims made similar claims.

The Times said that, overall, between February, when AB 1309 was introduced, and Sept. 15, a total of 1,980 athlete claims were filed in California — compared to 1,170 in all of 2012. More claims were filed in that nine-month period than any other year, by far, the analysis found.

In the six weeks following the implementation date of AB 1309, only 49 filings from all sports came in - so the law is having its intended effect to reduce the number of claims filed by minimizing the ability of professional athletes to obtain workers' compensation benefits.

I thought all of this was an interesting dichotomy to the hoopla of the Super Bowl - there is a disconnect between the entertainers (athletes) doing their jobs and the financial rewards that the game brings to the players, the owners, and American society at large.

According to NorthWestern University's Business Review, a 30-second commercial costs about $3.5 million (that was 2012 - Fox was charging $4 million for the Seahawks vs. Broncos game).

Gambling on the game is estimated to top $90 million.

The Super Bowl is the second biggest food consumption day of the year (Thanksgiving is first) with Americans spending between $50 million and $237 million on the various treats consumed.

The 68,000 seats in MetLife Stadium for the game ranged between $800 and $1,200 face value, though a lot of tickets get sold on the secondary market for an average of $4,000 a seat.

The hotels in the area were all sold out with some second and third tier hotels getting close to $2,000 a night and the better ones over $4,000 per night.

It's estimated that $11 billion is going to be spent on food, drinks, apparel and other accoutrements.

$11 billion ... that's just the side business.

I just don't see the cost of workers' compensation affecting the pricing of anything in this scenario.

According to Anthony Fontana who writes a business column for the content portion of Quicken Loans, the city that hosts the Super Bowl generally sees $150 million or so in additional revenues.

The International Business Times says that The NFL, while it oversees a more than $9.5 billion-a-year industry, is not a for-profit venture. It’s is a registered 501(c)(6) organization, a nonprofit status reserved for business leagues, chambers of commerce and the like. NFL teams make a profit; the NFL itself technically doesn’t.

Whether you believe the NFL Players Association of the league itself, the professional life span of a pro player is still obscenely short - the NFLPA says just over 3 years, and the NFL says over 6 years with first drafters going up to 9 years.

I still say there is a huge disconnect between the financial picture of professional sports, the employers, the entertainers (see the recent filing of an Oakland Raiderette alleging employment law violations) and the laws that all of us are used to for protection against employment risks.

AB 1309 is law now, and perhaps it will be challenged in the future (there was mention in the LA Times story that a constitutional challenge may be forthcoming); in my mind, though, that doesn't make it right. Society needs to chose whether it wants workers' compensation or not - no half-assed system that covers some people some of the time when it fits another's financial agenda...

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