Kickers and punters are often viewed as the "little guy" among NFL teams. After all, they have the easy job -- kick the ball, then get off the field. But what many people don't realize is that for NFL kickers and punters, football is still a full contact sport. In fact, kickers and punters are often knocked to the ground after every kick. Viewers are unaware of this, however, because the camera always follows the ball downfield, so the tackle takes place off-screen. Indeed, former players say every team has a designated "punter hunter," a player who is tasked with striking the punter during punts and kickoffs.
Due to all these hits, day after day, kickers and punters are experiencing incidents of brain injury similar to those of linebackers and running backs. In fact, the NFL has been under heavy fire in recent years due to accusations of traumatic brain injury amongst its players, injuries that have led to complications in later life. Many former NFL players who have suffered head trauma in the past are now suffering from serious medical conditions, such as dementia.
NFL players, including a surprising number of kickers and punters, are now flocking to California to file workers' compensation requests. A loophole in California law states that a player from any team (not just a California team) can file for workers' compensation in California if they've played one or more games within the state's borders. Legislators are currently working to close this loophole.
While some players can turn to workers' compensation to receive repayment for their injuries, others feel as though the NFL did not properly protect them from receiving head injuries in the first place. In a recent settlement, the NFL agreed to pay $765 million to settle personal injury lawsuits from over 4,500 former players who claim the NFL did not disclose important information about the dangers of head injuries to its players. This compensation will likely go a long way toward paying for the medical costs of former players, many of whom now face a lifetime of medication and treatment.
Los Angeles Times, "Kickers, punters file brain injury claims against NFL in California" Ken Bensinger, Aug. 31, 2013