Concussion Risk: Advances in Protocol and Insurance Solutions | Insurance Business America
Wearers have withdrawn from high-impact sports
life & health
By Gia Snape
This article was created in partnership with Amwins Group, Inc.
Insurance Gia Snape sat down with Nate Walker, senior vice president of sales at Special Markets Insurance Consultants (SMIC) and Harrison Brown, chief executive officer at HEADCHECK Health, to discuss the risk of concussion in the sports industry and how it affects liability claims on the market and how enforcing head injury protocols can help keep athletes safe.
Concussion, or mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), is one of the most common injuries in athletes. The CDC estimates that between 1.6 and 3.8 million sports and recreational incidents occur in the United States each year.
The growing awareness of concussions, particularly poorly treated concussions in professional sports, has made insurers reluctant to cover the risk. Many airlines choose to outsource coverage or offer concussion-only policies.
The pullback poses a challenge for the sports industry and places a greater focus on ensuring athlete safety through concussion protocols.
“Concussion injuries have presented the insurance industry with numerous lawsuits,” said Nate Walker (pictured above), senior vice president of sales at Special Markets Insurance Consultants (SMIC).
SMIC is an Amwins group company and Managing General Underwriter (MGU) specializing in student, sports and events risk.
“Sports casualty insurance is prone to large claims, which has led many to try to minimize their risk,” Walker told Insurance Business.
Hammer bearers are held liable for concussion
Concussion liability claims in US professional sports have cost insurers billions of dollars over the past few decades.
More recently, former NFL players have sued the league, alleging it has repeatedly denied disability benefits to people with physical and mental disabilities.
According to Walker, shippers generally fall into three camps when it comes to concussion risk: “Either they decide they don’t want to insure any part if the risk is there and decline an offer, or they make an offer and set a TBI exclusion or sublimit limit.” or they decide it’s all in and the price for it.
“These insurers will look closely at an insured’s historical claims history as well as their current concussion logs.”
There is insurance that only covers a concussion, but not on the side of the accident. However, in many cases, a sports organization or school may already have accident insurance that covers concussion injuries, making concussion-only accident insurance unnecessary.
The rise in concussion injuries in sports
Concussions are notoriously difficult to diagnose, but recent medical advances have uncovered the serious and long-term health effects of these injuries. Even a seemingly small bump on the head can trigger unwanted symptoms such as nausea, fatigue, confusion, or memory loss.
“The reality is that concussions are inevitably going to happen in these sports,” said Harrison Brown (pictured above), co-founder and CEO of HEADCHECK Health, a digital platform that helps sports organizations properly implement, administer, and monitor their concussions logs.
“Historically, concussion rates have been underreported for a number of reasons, including people being unaware of the injury and not knowing how to identify or document it,” Brown continued.
“So it looks like there’s been an explosion of concussions in the last decade, but that may not really be the case. Maybe the world just got better at recognizing and dealing with the injury.”
The goal of HEADCHECK Health is simple: They want to prevent poorly treated head injuries. Their tools help everyone involved identify, treat, and care for a suspected concussion.
For Brown, protocols are key to detecting and treating head injuries, caring for athletes and ultimately improving outcomes for the sports industry. But only if they are properly followed – a task most companies find difficult to master.
“Part of our job is to help the organization implement its concussion policy, whether it’s training, testing, documentation, recovery management, or clearance,” he said.
“The other side is the analytics. We have the data to conduct internal audits for leagues, teams, schools, school boards and every organization we work with.
“This means we can identify compliance gaps and get interesting metrics, like how and where breaches occur, so we can protect the organization from those risks in the future.”
How data can help wearers understand concussion risk
HEADCHECK Health data can provide insight into injury trends and help organizations prevent future injuries. It works with SMIC to find risk solutions for athletes in the market.
Technology firms can play an important role by capturing valuable data that can assist shippers in insuring sporting risk cases.
“Ten years ago, insurers only had a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question about a concussion in their supplement. Now they want to know more about an insured’s logs, especially if they’ve made claims,” Brown said.
For organizations with vague or few risk mitigation plans, rates will reflect this. But those using digital platforms like HEADCHECK Health will most likely see some price relief or fewer exclusions and sublimits.
“I think we’re going to see more airlines willing to write high-risk sports over time,” Walker said. “By enacting new rules, access to better equipment and deploying new risk reduction tools, the sports industry will continue to make strides in protecting their athletes. This will lead to better performing insurance products.”
Amwins is the largest independent wholesaler of specialty insurance products in the United States and is dedicated to serving retail insurance agents through the provision of property and casualty insurance products, specialty group benefit products and administrative services. Based in Charlotte, North Carolina, the company has more than 155 offices worldwide and processes over $29 billion in awards placements annually.
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