In the wake of new research that shows participation in youth football before age 12 increases the risk of behavioral problems and clinical depression, it’s not surprising that the Wyoming High School Activities Association (WHSAA) recently purchased a concussion insurance policy for its 25,000 student-athletes. The policy provides for zero out-of-pocket costs, should any of them suffer an activities-related head injury. According to SGBOnline.com, Wyoming is one of only a handful of states to provide this free type of coverage. Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana and Wisconsin are the others.
The WHSAA is paying for the $37,000 premium provided by Dissinger Reed Insurance with revenues generated by the state association’s agreement with the NFHS Network, according to WHSAA Commissioner Ron Laird. The NFHS Network provides access to live high school sports around the country.
One in five high school student-athletes will sustain a concussion during the course of his or her season, according to Head Case, which created a Head Health Management System to track and record an athlete’s impact data. That’s why the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association also purchased concussion insurance for its student-athletes in grades 6 through 12. It costs the WIAA $1.50 per person but is free to all member schools.
WIAA executive director Dave Anderson stresses that the coverage should be treated as secondary insurance beyond what a student-athletes already has. “[We] don’t ever want to see concern for a concussion, or concern for receiving treatment, to be a reason that would prevent a youngster or a family from taking part in school sports,” Anderson told Milwaukee Public Radio station WUWM.
Fort Wayne, Ind.-based K&K Insurance also offers concussion insurance. “It’s excess coverage above any existing healthcare coverage and is designed to help pay expenses should an injury occur,” says Lorena Hatfield, marketing manager for K&K. “The schools do not profit from this at all and are actually paying for the coverage. It’s a fairly new coverage, but one that makes sense and benefits the students.”
But how do event owners know if they need to add this coverage for their participants?
According to fellow SDM contributor John M. Sadler of Sadler Sports and Recreation Insurance in Columbia, S.C., stand-alone brain injury/concussion policies may serve a useful purpose in the right situation. But, he adds, “in most situations, they are an unnecessary duplication of benefits and a waste of money.”
For example, if a school district or youth sports organization already has quality accident insurance in force, regular accident policies cover concussion diagnosis — including CT scans and follow-up visits that adhere to return-to-play protocol. In such situations, it would not make sense to also purchase a stand-alone brain injury/concussion policy, Sadler says.
The exception would be in situations where a school district or youth sports organization refuses to purchase accident insurance, or when the accident insurance deductible is so high that many parents would refuse to seek medical treatment.
So, what’s an event owner to do? While some concussion insurance was developed specifically for high school state associations, Hatfield suggests event organizers check to see if brain injury coverage is included when purchasing insurance. She says it is sometimes either excluded, included for an additional fee or has a separate limit depending on the carrier and the sport insured.