Posts Tagged ‘sports risk management’

The Truth About Concussion Risk Management in Youth Football

How to Plan a Youth Football Brain Injury Risk Management Program

Local associations must adopt and implement a concussion/brain injury management program to battle looming liability crisis.

For the past three years, Sadler Sports & Recreation Insurance has been urging our youth tackle football clients to implement comprehensive brain injury risk management programs to help to prevent injuries and resulting lawsuits from becoming insurance claims. In the event that a lawsuit is filed by an injured participant, whether from a single concussion, multiple concussions, or cumulative traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), it is crucial for a local association to show that it has complied with the national standard of care for brain injury protection. Doing so not only protects the players against injuries and the association and staff against lawsuits, but also protects the General Liability insurance carrier, which makes it more likely that brain injury coverage will be available in the future.

Standard of care owed is determined by state legislation, case law, sanctioning and governing bodies, risk management resources, and expert witnesses

In a negligence-based lawsuit, the claimant filing the lawsuit must prove that a duty was owed, the duty was breached, and that the breach was the cause of the damages. The duty that is owed is also known as the standard of care. The standard of care to protect against brain injury for youth football players will be determined by state legislation, case law, sanctioning and governing bodies, risk management resources, and expert witnesses.

Depending on the source, some standards are mandated and others are recommended or are just guidelines. However, understand that the claimant’s attorney will argue that even recommended standards and guidelines should be implemented by a reasonable and prudent youth football association.

9 Elements of a solid written risk management program for youth football associations

The following elements should be considered by local tackle football associations when developing their concussion/brain injury risk management program.

  1. Written program

A written risk management program should be adopted by board action and communicated to all administrators, staff, players, and parents. A written program that builds in accountability is much more likely to be implemented than a program that is not in writing.

  1. Educational awareness through online training and information handouts

Coaches should receive training and certification in both 1) concussion basics for youth sports through the CDC Concussion Training CourseNAYS Concussion Training Course, or a similar online course, and 2) a tackle training program on how to remove the head from the tackle such as through Seahawks Tackling.

Players and Parents should receive and be required to sign off and return to the association a concussion fact sheet handout from the CDC or a similar source at the beginning of every season.

  1. Document retention

The local association should maintain documentation of coach training certificates and player/parent fact sheets for 15 years. Note that a 5-year-old child may wait until age 20 in many states before filing a lawsuit for a past injury.

  1. Baseline and post injury neurocognitive testing

This is a rapidly changing area with the emergence of new, lower-cost technologies where baseline and post-injury testing can be delivered on the sidelines through smart phones and tablets. So far, baseline neurocognitive testing is considered to be a voluntary measure in most instances.

  1. Identify suspected cases of concussions

The highest medical authority (M.D., D.O.,  athletic trainer, or person with EMT or Red Cross certification) at a practice or game should make the call in terms of signs observed by parents, guardians, or sports staff and symptoms reported by player. The highest authority must be aware of danger signs that would result in an immediate trip to the emergency room and in questions to ask and exertional maneuvers to perform to identify a potential concussion. Identification of potential concussions is a rapidly evolving area with a number of new tools that have recently hit the market or that will soon be available, such as helmet impact indicators, smart phone/tablet apps for sideline testing of memory and fine motor coordination to compare to baseline results, tablet eye-tracking devices, telemedicine with doctors via smart phones, etc.

  1. Actions to take if a concussion is suspected

Remove the athlete from play, make sure the athlete is evaluated by an M.D. or D.O., inform parents through the CDC fact sheet, and keep the athlete out of play until written return-to-play medical clearance is received from a qualified medical provider. Some state concussion laws allow return-to-play medical clearance by a “health care provider” which may also encompass professionals such as physicians’ assistants and nurse practitioners.

  1. Reduce full contact during practices

The Datalys Study by Kerr indicates that limiting contact at practice may reduce concussions in youth tackle football. Governing and sanctioning bodies have started to adopt contact limitation guidelines.

  1. Proper fitting and care of helmets

This has always been and continues to be of critical importance in protecting youth football players from head and neck injuries. A number of online guides and videos are available from helmet manufacturers to assist coaches and equipment managers in this area. A list of these sources can be found on the risk management section of our website.

  1. Compliance with state concussion laws and governing body and sanctioning body requirements or recommendations

Any risk management program should comply with the standards as prescribed by state concussion legislation (this only applies to schools in some states) and governing body (USAFB) and sanctioning body (AYF, Pop Warner) requirements and recommendations.

Based on my 30 years of experience in the sports insurance niche and the potential for brain injury litigation, I would not want to be a board member or staff member involved with a youth tackle football organization that did not have an effective, formally-adopted and fully-implemented written concussion/brain injury risk management program.

Sadler Sports & Recreation Insurance has developed a sample concussion/brain injury risk management program for our youth football clients that incorporates the elements listed above and that can be downloaded from our website in WORD document format.

Top 5 Sports Risks Resulting in Insurance Claims

You need to know them to try to prevent them, but sports insurance still a must

Accidents can happen any time, to anyone, on and off the sports field. Many aren’t even related to playing the sport itself, and many result in serious injuries. Sadly, a large portion of them can be prevented with a little attention to hot spots and putting into place proven risk management policies. However, others are just part of the game.

We take pride in offering our clients risk management advice in an effort to prevent claims. We hope you’ll be able to avoid making the top 5 list:

  1. Wayward balls are the cause of more claims for damages and injuries than anything else in sports. Baseballs in particular are high-speed missiles that slam into players, dugouts, spectators, cars, windows, and anything else in their path. Wild pitches, overthrown lacrosse balls and basketballs, and baseballs hit out of the park are only some of ways balls can cause injuries. A real horror story to a client occurred when an assistant coach was struck in the face by a pitched baseball while warming up the pitcher. He later lapsed into a coma and died of his injuries resulting in total claims cost of $1,001,000.
  2. Falls by players, coaches, spectators, groundskeepers and officials are by far the most common sports injury. Holes in the field, slippery or wet surfaces, obstacles in or around the field, bases, field markers, and equipment cause people to fall. Falls from bleachers, benches, ladders, playground equipment, backstops, and goals are also not uncommon. Broken, sprained or twisted limbs can result in expensive medical bills and even time off work. Falls can even result result in death.  One of our baseball leagues had a claim that settled for $41,781 where a spectator fractured both ankles after stepping in a washed out grassy area of a ballpark.
  3. Vehicles of all sorts are involved in numerous sports-related claims. Many can be avoided if parking and traffic flow signage is displayed properly. Delivery trucks backing into concession stands, golf carts and riding mowers overturning, tents and awnings collapsing on vehicles, tractors hitting parked cars, vandalism, and balls flying through windshields are common incidents at the ballpark. One of our baseball leagues experienced a claim where a person was injured by being pinned between a scoreboard table and golf cart with a resulting settlement of $50,000.
  4. Roughhousing and unsupervised children can cause all sorts of mayhem. Playing or climbing on goals, vehicles, bleachers, gates and fences frequently ends in injuries. This includes unattended children in play areas, near water, or in wooded areas of the park. It’s also not unusual for players to be swinging bats or tossing/kicking balls in areas where others can be hurt, such as concession areas, parking lots and near bleachers. And in heated competitions, it’s not unusual for fights to break out among spectators or between players on the field. An example of this type of claim was when one of our local league clients was sued as a result of children climbing on statue at an awards banquet which caused $4,789 in damage to Sports insurance claimsa water fountain.
  5. Player collisions with other players, spectators and equipment are common. Baseball, soccer, football, and basketball players frequently collide with one another on the field, often resulting in concussions, fractured limbs, and other injuries. Basketball and football players often crash into spectators on the sidelines. And it’s not unusual for players to collide with teammates and coaches on the bench, down markers, goals, and bleachers. One of our clients had a situation where a youth football player was driven into a 1st down marker and fractured his arm. The insurance settlement was $75,000.

These are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to accidents that can happen in and around sports. The examples listed on this page are expected to occur with some frequency. However, it’s often the unexpected types of claims that result in some of the largest payouts. You just never know what can happen and that’s why you must have quality sports insurance. We have a whole list of horror stories about what can go wrong on our risk management page, which also includes lots of free risk management material.

Choosing a Sports Insurance Agent/Broker

Selection criteria for sports organizations

Sports insurance agentA prior blog post explained why sports and recreation organizations shouldn’t follow the traditional insurance bidding process of allowing multiple agents to approach the limited marketplace of insurance carriers and managing general agency (MGA)*. To follow-up on this, below are suggested selection criteria to choose the most qualified agent/broker so that such agent can approach the entire marketplace.

Insurance Agency Qualification Checklist:

  • Special department dedicated to sport and recreation insurance risks
  • Number and names of similar sports/recreation organizations insured
  • Premium volume of similar sports organizations insured
  • Carriers or MGAs represented for each policy type
  • Premium volume and special relationships with each carrier/MGA to be approached
  • Resumes of key servicing staff, including experience in sports/recreation insurance niche
  • Specific staff assigned to service account
  • Claims management services
  • Loss analysis, forecasting, and rate justification services
  • In-house authority to issue certificates of insurance
  • Injury-tracking services and automation
  • Training on employee injury reduction, premises safety, auto safety, special events safety, etc.
  • Special risk management services for sports and recreation organizations
  • Agency license for both Property & Casualty and Life and Accident, & Health for all states of organization’s operations
  • Website services including online enrollment, self-issuance of certificates of insurance, educational articles, risk management reports, forms, articles, programs, etc.

Insurance Agent Qualification Checklist:

  • Resume of insurance agent
  • Number of years of experience in insurance industry
  • Number of years dealing with sports and recreation accounts
  • Title or position within insurance agency
  • Ownership in insurance agency
  • Special training and designations such as CPCU, CIC, etc.
  • Producer license for both Property & Casualty and Life, Accident, & Health for all states of organization’s operations
  • Carriers/MGA’s to be approached for each policy type
  • Names and contact information of similar sports/recreation organization clients for reference check
  • Membership in professional trade organizations in insurance industry
  • Board of director positions or committee assignments on behalf of sports/recreation organizations
  • Publications on insurance and risk management on behalf of sports/recreation organizations
  • Number of proposed client meetings throughout year to review insurance and risk management programs
  • Renewal strategy philosophy
  • Disclosure of commissions and fees earned
  • Attendance at meetings trade shows or speaking engagements on behalf of organization

Carrier/MGA Qualification Checklist:

  • M. Best rating for financial strength
  • Number of years in sports/recreation insurance niche
  • Number of similar sports/recreation insurance clients
  • Premium volume of similar insurance clients
  • Names of similar sports/recreation insurance clients
  • Philosophy on acceptable loss ratios
  • Claims services offered
  • Risk management services offered
  • Licensed in all states where organization operates
  • Other services provided

*An MGA is an insurance organization that provides some of the services that are normally provided by insurance carriers in exchange for a fee. Examples of common MGA services include underwriting, policy issuance, loss control, claims administration, and marketing. The MGA as a middleman does not increase the cost of doing business since they provide services that the insurance carrier would be required to otherwise provide. Therefore, the existence of MGA’s reduces the expenses of the insurance carriers.

Special Events May Require Special Coverage

Safety should be priority No. 1

Many for profit and not for profit organizations hold special events throughout the year. These can be tournaments, banquets, marathons, fundraisers, award ceremonies or simply family days that include fun activities and entertainment. A lot of planning and organization are required to ensure these events are successful. One element of the planning stage that should never be overlooked is determining whether your insurance program includes the coverage needed for a safe event for everyone involved – hosts, participants, volunteers, vendors and guests.

There are risks involved in hosting and managing special events that may require either added short-term or annual coverage. Beyond checking with your agent as to whether your event is adequately protected, below is a list of areas that require particular attention during the planning stages.


Vendors can include caterers, tent and equipment rentals, concessions, security, and parking attendants. It’s important to research your vendors well because poor service or a mishap on their part can spoil an entire event – think of the potential consequences of a collapsed tent or food poisoning. It’s critical that each of your vendors provide you with a valid certificate of insurance evidencing General Liability with a limit of at least $1 million each occurrence and that they can add your organization as an additional insured on their policy.


It’s not unheard of for the actual venue of an event to be a factor that causes an accident or injury claim. Stages can collapse, fire exits get blocked, and severe weather can trigger the need for fast evacuations. The more knowledge you have about the number of people attending the event, the electrical equipment needed, and potential for severe weather, the better prepared you will be. For indoor events, make sure you know the emergency protocols of the building, which includes knowing where all the fire extinguishers, exits and stairwells are located. For outdoor events, be sure the terrain and any light/sound rigging are properly installed. Monitor the weather in the days leading up to the event as well as during the event – storms can pop up unexpectedly with disastrous results. There are weather apps for smartphone that can alert you to severe weather watches and warnings.

Emergency Planning

Every event should have a unique emergency plan which all staff and volunteers receive and sign that they have read it. The emergency plan should include who has the authority to shut the event down or ask a vendor to vacate. Sudden storms, a shooter in the area, or a vendor with a lapsed permit are only a few examples of when someone may need to make an on-the-spot decision.  The emergency plan should also include a protocol for announcing a closing or changes in the event programming. It goes without saying that all event staff and volunteers should be familiar with the event emergency plan, to include medical emergencies, lost children, crime and severe weather.


Security often is something that tends to get “overlooked” because it doesn’t generate income. However, security should be considered an investment that reduces your risk of liability, which is just as good or even better than income. Below are some security tips that can make for a much safer event for everyone involved.

  • Volunteers are a great resource, but don’t use them for security enforcement purposes, such as dealing with unruly people, enforcing parking or alcohol regulations, or providing first aid. It’s best to have trained medical and law enforcement professionals handling these duties.
  • Using teachers, senior/varsity athletes and other community leaders is also not a good idea when it comes to maintaining order in the crowd. These temporary-authority figures aren’t always respected by others when they’re out of their element.
  • If you pay for professional security, don’t scrimp. Going with the cheapest security service may not be your wisest decision. Are their employees simply hired staff or trained personnel? Ask what types of sports events and what size crowds can they handle. Ask for examples of situations they managed to control and get references.

Sadler offers Special Event insurance and one of our insurance experts would be happy to help you determine what coverage your event needs. Call us today at (800) 622-7370 or simply request a quick special event insurance quote online now.

Critical Signage in a Fitness Center

Signs aren’t just for show

Signage in a fitness center serves several roles. Warning, policy / procedure, announcement and directional signs are all important to the safety of fitness center clients and protecting your business and staff from liability claims.


These signs serve as silent staff members, reminding clients of safety procedures and cautioning them of potential dangers. These can include warnings of wet floors in sauna/jacuzzi/pool/shower areas, improper use of equipment, and use of spotters in weight areas. Warning signs should be professionally printed and posted strategically where they can be seen clearly and at eye level, or no higher than 6’ from the ground.

Policies & Procedures

These range from general policies posted at the front desk to issues of sanitation and courtesy throughout the facility. Examples include minimum age requirements of clients, policies for use of the locker rooms and showers, and use of equipment. These signs should also be printed professionally and placed in close proximity to the relevant area(s) no higher than 4 to 6’ from the ground. Decals on mirrors and glass doors/windows are useful for attracting attention to certain policies or instructions.


Special events and classes take place in fitness centers on a regular basis. Signs alerting clients about the dates and details can be generated in-house by hand or computer and placed randomly, making sure they don’t interfere with or distract  from any safety or policy signs.


Signs denoting exits, ADA-facilities and equipment, emergency exit plans, location of safety equipment (fire extinguishers, first aid kits, alarms, etc.) should be professionally generated and posted per building regulations.

Despite the best efforts of your staff, accidents and emergencies will occur.  Your facility should have written emergency procedures in the event an injury illness or an emergency such as fire,tornado, power outage.

  • Every staff member (including independent contractors and volunteers) should receive a copy of the emergency procedures and required to sign that they have read and understood them. These procedures should be reviewed regularly at least once a year.
  • Staff members who work on the fitness floor should have Red Cross training in first aid. At least one CPR-certified staff member should be on site at all times.
  • If there is AED equipment (defibrillator) on site, at least one staff member trained in the use of the AED should be on site at all times.

David L. Harlowe, Chapter 27: “Fitness Center Safety,” Risk Management In Sport, Third Edition, 2012.

Reducing the risk of ACL injuries

Is prevention the best medicine?


You’d be hard pressed to find any youth soccer, basketball or football team that doesn’t have at least one player with an ACL injury.

ACL diagramThe anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, stabilizes the knee and is highly susceptible to injury during high impact sports. As the popularity of youth sports continues to grow, so does the number of teen and young ACL injuries. How can this be minimized?

Training for prevention

Young athletes receiving universal neuromuscular training is proving to be an effective deterrent to ACL injuries, according to a recent Columbia University Medical Center study. The training teaches athletes proper bending, jumping, landing and pivoting techniques. The study focused on 10,000 “at-risk” athletes between the ages of 14 and 22. The results showed an average reduction of 63 percent in ACL injuries in those who received universal training.

Screening for ACL weaknesses also helps reduce the number of ligament sprains and tears, but reduced the rate by only 40 percent.

Counting the costs

The estimate to run a universal training program for coaches and players is about $1.25 per day, according to the study researchers. ACL reconstruction can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $17,000.

“According to our model, training was so much less expensive and so much more effective than we anticipated.” said orthopaedic resident Eric F. Swart, the lead author of the study

While preventive training and screening might sound like the best option, screening is a high-cost variable if implemented on a team-wide basis.

Source: “Universal neuromuscular training reduces ACL injury risk in young athletes,” Medical Xpress. 14 Mar. 2014.

The Insurance Process for Sports/Recreation Organizations

The risk management decision-making process

Many sports and recreation organizations and their insurance agents make the mistake in their efforts to find the least expensive insurance carriers: they concentrate primarily on the insurance bidding process. Unfortunately, this single-minded pursuit ignores or only pays lip service to the traditional risk management process and actually raises the cost of risk over the long term. Insurance agents and carriers are the primary providers of risk management services for sports organizations, as most can’t afford a full time risk manager on their staff. The long-term cost of risk and insurance can be reduced to the greatest extent only when qualified insurance agents implement the following risk management process:

  1. Identifying exposures to loss of property, net income, liability, and personnel. These exposures should be identified through a review of historical loss data of the sports organization, loss data of similar organizations, surveys/questionnaires, financial statements, inspections, interviews with management, and interviews with outside experts.
  2. Analyzing threat levels in terms of frequency of loss and severity of loss. The threat level should be measured by those that interfere most directly with the sports organization in terms of income, growth, continuity of services or operations, and humanitarian goals.
  3. Prioritizing treatment for those losses that pose the highest threats. Sports organizations should spend the most time and money addressing the potential causes of loss that could have the biggest negative impact.
  4. Applying risk control techniques that key in on preventing or reducing actual losses. Examples include avoidance (ex: use of 15-passenger vans, overnight sleepovers), loss prevention (ex: criminal background checks), loss reduction (ex: mandate safety equipment), segregation of loss exposures (ex: set up separate entity to hold scholarship funds), and contractual transfer for loss control (ex: subcontract out risky activities such as transportation of participants, serving of liquor, or fireworks).
  5. Applying risk financing techniques that key in on figuring out the best and least expensive way to pay for losses that can’t be controlled. Examples include retention of losses (ex: paying smaller and/or predictable losses out of funded reserves or under insurance deductibles) and transfer through the purchase of insurance or the use of contractual transfer for risk financing (ex: waiver/release, hold harmless/indemnification provisions).
  6. Studying and preparing for emerging risk issues such as advanced concussion diagnosis and treatment, updated CPR techniques and AEDs.
  7. Monitoring results by setting acceptable performance standards, comparing actual results to standards, and correcting substandard performance.

Visit our risk management page for more information on the decision-making process.