Put Me in, Coach–I’m ready to play (Oh, Wait, I Can’t)

By Judge Brian Addington, Gray

Brian and IanWell, we’re in summer now, and what time is it? Baseball time. By the way, I’m a Braves fan; isn’t everybody? There’s just something about baseball as the perfect way to get folks together on a hot summer evening.

Speaking of baseball, playing it in college remains one of my favorite memories. I didn’t go to a large high school, so we didn’t have sports teams. Before that, my family moved often when I was a kid, so I never participated in peewee or junior sports.

The first time I set foot on a baseball diamond to play in a game as a team member was my sophomore year at Pikeville College, and oh I had fun. It was great to be on a team, travel and be outside on sunny days.

But I stunk. I mean, I couldn’t hit a baseball if I tried. Well, that’s a lie; I could foul it off very well, and irony of irony, the ball seemed to like hitting me in various parts of my body all the time. What kept me on the field were my defense skills. If an opposing team member hit the ball anywhere near me, and I saw it off the bat, I could catch it—most of the time.

In general, I loved sports and still do today. I loved playing backyard football (actually we played in the gravel parking lot in front of the house). I tolerated sandlot basketball ̶ I was never good at it. I played backyard volleyball and badminton, and I loved throwing a frisbee and running.

As I got older, I anticipated the day I would get to do those activities with my son. And boy, have we. We’ve played football, basketball, baseball, golf, volleyball, thrown a frisbee and run. Just about any sport ̶ we’ve done it. I have to say, now he’s better than me in all of them, even though I have been his baseball, basketball, football, and cross-country coach at various times.

But what does this have to do with workers’ compensation?

Although our Court handles cases involving professional athletes (Titans, Predators, etc.) and regular employees injured in employer-sponsored games and sports activities, where we see the biggest relation between sports and workers’ compensation is in the sad fact that work injuries often rob employees of the ability to play and coach sports.

I know what you’re thinking: “Oh, that’s not a big deal. People ought to be glad they’re able to get around.” I think they are. But just consider some activity that you really enjoy, and then one day out of the blue you could never do it again. It’s hard on people.

I performed a short legal search of reported Tennessee cases and focused solely on baseball. I found nine cases where injured employees could no longer play or coach baseball. I also found several cases where employees could no longer play football or other sports. I also found Long v. Save-A-Lot Discount Food, where an injured employee could no longer play basketball, baseball, football or track. As a judge, I’ve listened to employees and their loved ones tell me the injured employee can no longer participate in the sport(s) they love.

So this year, as we celebrate 100 years of workers’ compensation in Tennessee, let’s realize the reasons behind the law and the benefits employees are able to obtain because of it. But let’s also remember there are hidden losses to employees sometimes that workers’ compensation can never make whole, and sometimes that’s the sport they love.

Brian coaching

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