Sen. Chris Murphy calls for NCAA to improve athletes’ health care; meeting with Emmert set

USA Today

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) issued a report Monday morning that calls for the NCAA to make dramatic changes in how it handles athletes’ health care, including demands that schools pay for “complete coverage” of costs related to current athletes’ participation in sports and unspecified “restitution” to former athletes suffering from the effects of head trauma.

On Monday afternoon, the office of Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) announced that Romney and Murphy will be meeting with NCAA President Mark Emmert on Tuesday in Washington, D.C.

The meeting likely will be related to the issues surrounding college athletes' ability to make money off their names, images and likenesses. Murphy and Romney recently announced the formation of a bi-partisan Senate working group related to college sports and Emmert has begun openly discussing the association’s interest in Congressional action as legislators in nearly 20 states look at joining California in enacting measures that would allow athletes to make money from their names, images and likenesses.

Emmert spoke about this during a public appearance in New York last week, and he is likely to cover it again during a non-Capitol Hill appearance he previously had been scheduled to make in Washington on Tuesday.

But it’s reasonable to believe that Murphy and federal lawmakers will use their meeting with Emmert as an opportunity to press their concerns in areas beyond name, image and likeness.

Concerning health care, at present, athletes’ medical costs can end up being covered at least in part by their parents’ insurance.

“Health care coverage shouldn’t depend on the athletes or their families but should be considered part of the cost of having an athletic program,” states Murphy's new report, which also said long-term care should be covered.

The report says booming revenue increases should give schools the money they need to provide this and they should “put that money to better use than lavish facilities or more bonuses for overpaid coaches.”

As for the notion of assistance to former athletes, the report says, “a century of negligence” has resulted in many athletes facing the consequences of “repeated head trauma that could have been prevented. We must account for that harm.”

This is the third in a series of reports on issues in college sports that Murphy has issued. The first addressed athlete compensation, and the second the quality of education that athletes receive.

The new report cites numerous previous media reports in documenting specific episodes of injuries and fatalities suffered by athletes and athletes’ travails in dealing with or attempting to get away from abusive behavior from coaches.

The report also calls for athletes to receive scholarships that are guaranteed regardless of injury; for “complete protection for whistleblowing about abusive and dangerous decision-making by coaches and trainers”; and for athletes to have less difficulty transferring “to leave programs with abusive cultures or when coaches demonstrably do not put their well-being first.”