Sport Clubs Medical Insurance

April 06, 2011

Everyone Has Questions but Nobody Has Answers

Matt Gaden, Recreation and Fitness Coordinator
University of Colorado at Colorado Springs

Recreational sports professionals never want to see a participant injured while taking part in a programmed activity or competition, but injuries to players are an inevitable part of any Sport Club program. Every university and state has different rules and laws that pertain to risk management, medical insurance requirements, and the university’s responsibility in the event of an injury. This has lead to a variety of different medical insurance requirements which varies from one school to the next.

A quick, unscientific survey consisting of 14 schools of various sizes from across the country illustrates the inconsistencies:
– 71% of the schools require participants to submit proof of personal medical insurance prior to participation.
– 28% of schools require students or clubs to purchase additional medical insurance for high risk activities.
– 43% of schools purchase a blanket medical insurance policy that covers all participants in the Sport Clubs programs.
Since there are no national guidelines or standards for dealing with medical insurance among Sport Clubs participants, recreation departments are left to develop their own policies and procedures on how the payment for treatment of an injury is handled. So how do Sport Club managers evaluate Sport Clubs insurance coverage needs? In developing an institutional policy, input should be sought from the Director of the department and/or the institutional Risk Manager, and a number of factors should be considered:
Risk Level of Club: Not all clubs carry the same risk factors or potential for injury, so insurance requirements may be different for a high risk club like rugby than for a low risk club like table tennis. Some criteria to consider when placing clubs into risk categories:
o Frequency of Injuries – How often do participants get injured?
o Severity of Injuries — Does the activity tend to lend itself to injuries that are more severe?
o Amount, duration and type of travel — How often do teams travel, how far are the trips, and how are they getting there (flying, driving in vans, driving in personal vehicles)?
o Level and frequency of competition — The more and higher level the competition the higher the likelihood that injuries will occur.
Availability of Insurance — Some higher risk clubs may not be eligible to be covered under a blanket policy. It will be up to the club sports administrator to discuss with campus officials (as well as the insurance provider) and determine what will render a club ineligible to be covered under the policy. A decision will then have to be made to either allow the Club(s) to find their own insurance provider, or to not allow them to be recognized as a Club by the school.
Available Budget: A blanket policy for all clubs will vary depending on the size of the program, and can cost several thousand dollars. Can the department absorb this cost from its annual budget or, if the cost is transferred to the Clubs, do these Clubs have the financial ability to pay the premium costs?
State Laws and University Policy — Consult with campus risk management professionals and legal counsel to ensure that the departmental plan falls within guidelines that may already exist at the state or university level.
Paperwork Submission — If Clubs are applying for their own insurance, they will need appropriate lead time to get quotes for the additional coverage. How much lead time will be required to submit the application and does that fit in with the typical planning schedule of clubs?
Assessing Sport Clubs’ risk and developing guidelines or standards is a complex and challenging process. Since there is no national standard for medical insurance requirements for Sport Clubs programs, it is important that departments evaluate their specific situation and develop appropriate policies. Recreational professionals must also find an acceptable balance between ensuring Sport Club participants receive appropriate medical care in the event of an injury, and keeping the process of running a Club manageable and affordable for the participating students. The best risk management practices in the world don’t do any good if the process is so complicated or the cost so expensive that it discourages students from participation.

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