Student athletes deserve more

A former Bishop’s University football player has sued the school after they refused to pay his medical bills following a concussion sustained during a football game two years ago. The 23-year-old’s entire right side was paralyzed as a result of the incident and he’s only just recently regained the ability to walk. During the game in question, the player was allegedly sent back out onto the field after complaining of concussion-like symptoms.

No student should ever pay the high price that this player has. In addition to demanding extra vigilance from coaches, universities could do more to compensate athletes for their injuries.

While athletes do have personal discretion, coaches have the final say when it comes to whether an athlete is fit to continue playing. Student athletes, particularly football players, face incredible social pressure from teammates and the wider campus culture to perform well and be tough for the sake of winning games. As such, they have a huge conflict of interest when it comes to deciding if they’re able to play with an injury. Coaches should use the training they have and take the utmost precaution when it comes to brain injuries like the one in question here.

The university’s assertion that they can’t identify a significant hit which caused the young man’s injury is suspicious. The nature of concussions is that many small impacts can add up and create a larger issue. In general, brain injuries can’t always be tracked back to a specific incident.

It’s good to see that there is a burgeoning debate about paying student athletes in the United States. While you often hear the claim that Canadian athletes don’t make their schools any money, it’s hard to calculate the value of a program like Queen’s football in terms of Queen’s reputation as a university. Greater compensation for Canadian student athletes should certainly be considered.

While the current discourse about student mental health is very positive, we can’t forget about student physical health. The athletes who put their bodies on the line for our excitement deserve greater compensation and care.

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