Huffman: Harry's High Cost
A Sports Editorial

It was just the fifth day of Falcons' training camp when Jonesboro's own Harry Douglas came crashing to the ground with a torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament, putting the second-year wide receiver on the shelf for the duration of the 2009 football season.

Depending on which website, or at least which poorly organized message boards dedicated to complaining about health costs you consult, repairing a torn ACL along with the ensuing physical therapy can cost anywhere from $10,000-$30,000.

I'm not sure if Douglas will have to foot the bill out of pocket since the Atlanta Falcons office employee I contacted told me, "We're not supposed to talk to media," but I do know Douglas would be able to afford it with his four-year 2.4 million contract he signed last year.

There are other athletes not as fortunate as Douglas.

The NCAA mandates that universities must provide health coverage for its athletes, but it does not specify the extent of that coverage.

As a July 15, 2009 New York Times article by Kristina Peterson described, there are plenty of colleges that are unwilling to provide their athletes with proper healthcare, sometimes resulting in injured players being left with humongous medical bills.

I once worked with a guy at a book store who played football for Columbia. He had to take his sophomore year off and come back to Georgia to get reconstruction surgery for both knees. Lucky for him, his father was a wealthy lawyer so they could afford the health costs.

Although the cost of healthcare may not weigh as heavily upon the wallets of our beloved athletes, it most certainly bares a considerably high cost for the rest of us.

According to the National Center for Health statistics, America pays about two trillion dollars in health care expenditures each year.

What are we getting for our money?

A health care system that's ranked 37th in the world according to the World Health Organization.

We're right between Costa Rica and Slovenia on the list. America has the 43rd lowest infant mortality rate and the 47th longest life expectancy rate according to the 2008 CIA fact book.

Needless to say, health care in this country is in pretty sorry shape.

The last doctor's office I visited had a dirt floor and a jar of leeches with very little else in the room.

A grungy-looking man in a tattered jumpsuit stumbled into the room dragging a mop leaving a thick, gray trail of muck behind him.

He told me the janitor was on his way to watch, as he would be performing my surgery.

Fake anecdotes aside, health care is a very important issue for us in the sports department.

Everyone in The Daily's sports department has a chronic health condition that requires vigilant attention.

Doug Gorman, my editor, suffers from the fatigue of being the boss of an obnoxious writer, I injured my knees and back doing a totally sweet moonsault off the roof of a garage while backyard wrestling a few years ago and Brian Paglia is married.

Not only that, but we are continuously at risk for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, over-weight hunger sweats and painfully-bad jokes from coworkers.

It is unfortunate that Douglas had to suffer such a serious injury, but let us not forget the many more people in the country who suffer health problems on a daily basis.

I can not speak for my fellow sports writers, but I most certainly am hoping the current tidal wave of misinformation and gullibility does to not keep legitimate health care reform from taking place. Though, judging by the non-sense being thrown around on talk radio, Fox News and town hall meetings, I'm not too optimistic.

Zack Huffman is a sports writer for The Daily. He can be reached at 770-478-5753 ext. 258 or zhuffman@news-daily.com