Nerlens Noel’s ACL Injury Raises Questions About NCAA Insurance Benefits

An MRI on Wednesday revealed that Kentucky center Nerlens Noel has torn his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

Expected to be the NBA’s No. 1 overall selection in the upcoming draft, the star player is now raising major questions over the NCAA’s insurance police for college players.

Under the NCAA’s start of season policy, players are only covered if they suffer from a career-ending injury. Worse yet, Noel would have been in violation of NCAA rules if he had sought extra benefits. Essentially, he couldn’t take out a loan to pay for the so-called “loss-of-value” insurance. That insurance guards against a drop in draft position, which could cost a player millions of dollars.

At the start of the season, the NCAA had throw up an “it’s not our problem” type of response to high-value players.

Paul H. Haagen, co-director of the Center for Sports Law and Policy at Duke University, tells the New York Times:

“It’s not as if they’re being given something. The attempt not to allow that reasonable accommodation, or not permitting the schools to provide them with a variety of long-term care insurance, that just seems to me inappropriate, shortsighted, wrongheaded.”

Even worse, Noel was only enrolled at Kentucky to satisfy the NBA’s “one and done rule” for enrollment into the National Basketball Association.

Noel’s only option when he started with the team was to join the NCAA’s Exceptional Student-Athlete Disability Insurance Program (ESDI), which, according to NBC Sports, would have provided coverage up to $5 million for a projected first-round NBA or NFL pick. However, the cost of that program is often upwards of $40,000 and usually involves an outside broker deal.

However, Noel’s injury, which is not career threatening, would not fall under the umbrella of coverage offered under that expensive plan since his career will not likely end.

Noel will now have to either rehabilitate at Kentucky for another season or enter the NBA draft with the hope that his value has not diminished because of his ACL tear.

NBC’s Mike Florio laments:

“So if the NCAA makes available insurance that covers only career-ending injuries, why should the players have to pay for it? At a time when NCAA-member institutions are generating millions from the labor and physical risks of players who get in return a “free education” that, frankly, costs the schools a lot less to give than it would cost the students to purchase, the players who are projected to have professional careers should get this protection automatically, and the NCAA should allow the schools to provide it.”

The NCAA has never made it their business to explain their money saving decisions, and, as of right now, they are only sitting idly by as more questions are raised by college player health insurance.

In the meantime, don’t feel too bad for Nerlens Noel. He will likely still walk or limp his way into a multi-million dollar NBA player before he’s even old enough to legally by alcohol.