Injuries are a major part of athletics, and a high percentage of student-athletes competing in NCAA athletics will experience some type of injury during his or her athletic career. Although the NCAA mandates that each student-athlete competing in athletics must have personal insurance, each insurance policy and insurance company has distinct terms and jargon defining what constitutes an injury, when injuries can occur, and how injuries can be treated.
For high school student-athletes and parents of recruited student-athletes who are experiencing the recruiting process or desire to be recruited, it’s absolutely crucial to understand the complexities involving injuries and insurance.
Taking preventive and precautionary measures prior to you or your child participating in college athletics can save tens of thousands of dollars in the long run. Additionally, asking key questions and evaluating your individual financial situation is critical. It’s always best to get all information and documentation in writing!
Here are four facts about injuries and its relation to insurance that every high school student-athlete and parents of recruited student-athletes should know:
1) Injuries Could Qualify As Pre-Existing Conditions
The NCAA mandates that each student-athlete competing in athletics must have personal insurance. With insurance policies, it’s imperative that payments are made in a timely fashion to ensure continuous coverage. If you fail to make timely payments and allow your insurance policy and coverage to lapse, any injuries that you have could qualify as pre-existing conditions. If a person has pre-existing conditions, insurance premiums could become more expensive; some companies might not even insure you. It’s critical to make sure that your policy remains active throughout a student-athlete’s athletic career.
- Question to Ask: “What type of injuries or medical conditions qualify as pre-existing conditions?”
2) Injuries Occurring Out of Network
Collegiate student-athletes will travel frequently for competitions, and injuries can occur at any place. As a result, it’s absolutely paramount that you know the coverage area of where you can receive medical treatment. If you are playing in a game in another state and experience a severe injury which will require immediate medical attention, some policies might not provide medical coverage that’s out of network; as a result, if you receive medical treatment out of your policy’s network, you might have to pay for medical treatment out-of-pocket. At times, student-athletes have to decide whether to receive immediate medical attention or wait until he or she returns home to be treated within the insurance network.
- Question to Ask: “What happens if I or my child is injured in a location that’s outside of my network and needs emergency medical attention?”
3) Injuries Under a Coach’s Watch
The language of individual policies are extremely intricate and even dictate when an injury can occur before an insurance company will provide medical treatment. There are insurance policies that mandate that injuries must occur under a coach’s watch, which is limited to practice, play, and travel.
Secondary insurance policies, designed to pick up out-of-pocket costs after a student-athletes’s primary insurance coverage amount is exhausted, are prevalent choices among NCAA student-athletes. These policies only cover athletic injuries that occur during the official NCAA-defined calendar times of practice and playing season.
Any accidents or injuries that happen out of season, which could include student-led practices, individual workouts, or conditioning sessions, are not applicable. For instance: If you were playing in a fall preseason pick-up basketball game with teammates and experienced a severe foot or knee injury, this type of policy wouldn’t cover medical expenses for treatment.
- Question to Ask: “Does this policy specify dates and places injuries can occur in order to receive coverage?”
4) Second Opinions Aren’t Always Covered
Insurance policies, which could be an individual's private policy or a school’s policy, often include a private network of doctors in which you may seek medical treatment. In the majority of situations, a parent or individual student-athlete might want a second opinion in circumstances which include:
- Requirement of multiple surgeries and other complicated procedures.
- Extensive rehabilitation and rehab processes that aren’t healing effectively.
- Potential misdiagnosis of an initial injury.
Though it’s understandable that an individual would want the most information to make the best decision possible, seeking second opinions might not be covered by certain policies. This can be applicable in situations when the doctor, who’s providing the second opinion, is outside of the insurance company’s network or if a doctor is a specialist within a given medical field.
- Question to Ask: “Are second opinions covered? How will situations when I need a second opinion or treatment from a medical specialist that’s outside of my coverage network be handled?”
Injuries are an unfortunate part of athletics. Prepare ahead of time by ensuring that you have written information concerning injuries in relation to insurance policies, as having written information readily available can be crucial in times of emergency when quick decisions must be made.
Most importantly, knowing information and asking proper questions related to injuries and insurance during the recruiting process can not only allow you to save money in the long run, but also help you or your child pick the right school that’s the best athletic and academic fit!