Tackling Coverage Concerns In Contact Sports
Due to advancements in medical diagnostics, litigation, and increased media attention, Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) and concussions have become an important topic in all sports in the past decade. The risk is not just related to football; instead, any sport with contact such as soccer, hockey, lacrosse, wrestling and even cheerleading have exposure to concussions.
TBI and concussions present long-term concerns because of the long-tail claims, meaning they can require payment for unknown periods based on expensive legal fees and long-term medical bills. Unlike an injury to the knee or arm, which generally have uniform, standard recovery times and treatment regimens, concussions are different for everyone. There is no way to set aside a "standard amount" of costs for medical care.
While coverage is still available, we have witnessed several insurance companies reduce their exposure to concussions by excluding coverage completely or adding TBI/neurodegenerative exclusions on excess liability policies over the past few years. This situation is further exacerbated by a hardening insurance market, one in which underwriter scrutiny is heightened, and rates continue to climb for all lines of coverage.
With limited options and costly rates for the options that still exist, some schools have begun to shut down their contact sports programs. An article from JDSupra highlights a community college district in Arizona that abandoned football, including a three-time National Championship winning program, due to insurance costs. The 358 football players out of 20,000 students made up for a third of the district's insurance costs.
Educating and Taking Preventive Steps
As the insurance market continues to shrink and rates continue to rise, the importance of mitigating risk and protecting student-athletes is further highlighted. According to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, five out of every ten concussions go unreported. At the same time, two out of every ten high school athletes will suffer a concussion in any given season. While there will never be an exact blueprint to prevent concussions from occurring, knowing the warning signs and staying educated on responding to TBI and concussions is essential.
Most schools adapt their concussion guidelines from both the NCAA and CDC. These standards are something all players, medical personnel, and coaches should be familiar with to diagnose concussions if they occur and know what steps to take after a concussion.
Coaches and athletes aren't the only ones who should be mindful of concussions at schools; faculty and staff should be educated as well. While staying off the playing field is absolutely necessary, student-athletes may also need to take some time to recover away from the classroom after a head injury. According to a concussion guide from the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), many athletes will have problems in the classroom following a concussion. It may be best to lessen the student's class load early on after the injury. This could mean staying home from school, followed by a lighter school schedule for a few days, or longer, if necessary.
A piece from United Educators provides helpful information and topics for coaches, athletes, parents, and school faculty and staff. The report recommends continued education on the following topics:
For Athletes and Parents:
- The seriousness of concussions.
- The signs/symptoms of concussions.
- The importance of reporting any signs and symptoms they witness or experience.
- Potential dangers of concussions.
- Signs and symptoms.
- Importance of physical and cognitive recovery following a concussion.
- School's concussion management policy.
- The signs and symptoms of concussions.
- How a concussion affects academic performance.
- How to minimize time lost from school without compromising recovery.
- The institution's policy on concussion management and cognitive recovery.
No set of guidelines can prevent concussions from occurring in contact sports. However, remaining educated and staying vigilant in looking for the warning signs of head injuries can help keep athletes safe and prevent long-term damage.
Talk to your RCM&D advisor today with any coverage questions regarding concussions and TBI.