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Paralyzed player sues Texas Christian
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- In a case that could trigger an avalanche
of lawsuits by athletes, a former football player paralyzed in
a game nearly 23 years ago is suing Texas Christian over his injury.
The crux of the case is whether an athlete is a university
employee. The trial could lead to a revolutionary change in college
sports, redefining athletes as a work force.
If he wins, former running back Kent Waldrep could be entitled
to workers' compensation plus reimbursement for medical expenses.
Jury selection begins today.
A Waldrep victory also could prompt legal action by athletes
who were hurt while playing college sports. Athletes now are covered
by catastrophic-injury insurance provided by the NCAA, the governing
body of college athletics. At the time Waldrep was paralyzed,
the NCAA did not have such coverage.
"It's about schools providing the same workman's compensation
and health insurance to players that they provide the secretary
in the football office," Waldrep told the San Antonio Express-News
"These are kids who are bringing jillions of dollars to
the school they play for. The failure to take care of them is
Waldrep filed a claim based on the same premise with the Texas
Workers Compensation Commission. In March 1993 the panel ruled
in his favor and said he should be paid $70 a week for life plus
medical bills dating to the accident, then estimated at more that
TCU's insurance carrier, the Texas Employers Insurance Association
in Receivership, refused to pay, appealing the decision. Under
state law, that meant sending the case to district court.
Waldrep hasn't walked since snapping his neck in a game against
Alabama in Legion Field on Oct. 27, 1974.
He remained in an Alabama hospital for a month and nearly died
of pneumonia. He was told at a Houston rehabilitation clinic that
he had lost all feeling from the neck down and that he should
get used to life in a wheelchair.
Since then, he's founded the National Paralysis Foundation
and raised $30 million for spinal cord research. He helped get
the Americans With Disabilities Act and he wrote a book, "Fourth
and Long," that was published last year.
He's also been married, had two children and, through physical
therapy, has regained use of his arms and feeling in his toes.
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