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For Athletes, Post-Career Healthcare Is No Game

In January 2017, a proposal in the Illinois legislature that would limit how long retired professional athletes can access workers' compensation benefits ignited a firestorm on a little-talked about topic—the significant healthcare costs that professional athletes may have to endure long after they've retired.

“Many players want to think that an injury isn't going to happen to them. They think they'll beat the odds," says Morgan Stanley Sports and Entertainment Director Jeremy J. Schwendeman. “If you do, that's great. But are you comfortable with those odds?"

Short Careers, Lasting Issues

Professional athletes face unique factors when it comes to retirement planning. While the minimum NBA salary for this year's season is just over $543,000, that income may last only a few years. For instance, the average NFL player's career spans just 3.5 years. For NBA and MLB players it's 4.8 years and 5.6 years, respectively.

“You might have someone who is making millions in a contract and endorsements, but the fact is some professional athletes are living year to year, wondering if they're going to make the club following year," Schwendeman says. “They're making the minimum, but that's not life-changing money, factored over the course of total earning years. And that’s assuming an injury doesn’t sideline their career."

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