Archive for the ‘Football’ Category

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. Many 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 cause 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 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  injuries, which resulted in total claims 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 common. 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 when 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 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 when 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 often 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 swing bats or toss/kick 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 a 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 occur frequently. Baseball, soccer, football, and basketball players also 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 that players 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.

Always expect the unexpected

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.

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Sadler Insurance Introduces New Improved AYF Insurance Webpage and Video

Sadler Sports Insurance has updated the American Youth Football/Cheer Insurance webpage for an enhanced user experience. The new webpage allows our AYF prospects and clients to access all insurance and risk management services (ex: applying, renewing, issuing certificates, add/delete teams, claims, etc.) without ever having to speak to a Sadler staff member. However, should a client have a question or need help with a service request, we stand ready to assist by chat, email, or phone. We’re proud of our service staff, which has a 98% “awesome” rating by the prospects and clients who have contacted us. The new webpage also lists all of our football and cheer specific risk management content on the same page so that it is no longer necessary to navigate to another page on our website.

In addition, we just produced a new video that we prepared for our local  AYF team/association/conference prospects and clients that explains all aspects of our insurance and risk management program. The video covers the following topics:

  • Risks of going uninsured or underinsured
  • 12 reasons why our program blows away the competition
  • Brief description of all 5 policies and why you need them
  • What you need to know before you apply
  • How to apply
  • How to access policy services
  • A review of our most important risk management content and blog articles

This video can be found by scrolling down the webpage and can be viewed individually or played for a small group to educate your board and administrators.

We hope you’ll check out our new website by clicking here. 

Fear of Concussions in Youth Sports

More effort in awareness and education needed

The anxiety level among Americans regarding concussions was found to be quite high according to a recent online survey. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center conducted the survey among 2012 Americans over the age of 18. The results highlight the myths and misunderstanding about concussions.

Nearly 90% of those surveyed consider concussions to be a moderate to severe health concern. Nearly one-third of parents said they fear their child will suffer a concussion, and 25% do not allow their children to play contact sports because they fear they’ll suffer a concussion.

Ironically, 26% of the parents surveyed did not seek medical treatment when someone in their family suffered a concussion. Worse, 81% of those surveyed said they would not know the steps to take in treating a concussion if they sustained one.

More statistics from the survey:

  • 87% did not know the definition of a concussion, and 37% admit to being confused as to what a concussion actually is.
  • 58% could not identify headache or dizziness as immediate symptoms of a concussion.
  • Only 34% understand that fatigue is also a symptom and just 13% know that mood changes can also be the result of a concussion.
  • 79% of adults incorrectly think concussions are incurable and that the symptoms can only be managed.

Decreasing the level of fear

Fear of concussion among many parents is affecting their decision to permit their children to participate in contact sports. While there has been much progress in educating coaches, trainers, parents and players about concussion risk management and treatment, there’s much work to be done.

Sports are a healthy physical and social activity for children and teens, and fear of injury should not prevent them from participating. Concussions are treatable and when properly managed, athletes can return to play. “With careful evaluation and treatment by a well-trained specialist, even the most complex injuries are manageable,” says Erin Reynolds, fellowship director of UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program.

Click here for the full survey results. We have more articles on concussions on our blog and offer free concussion risk management material in our risk management library.

Source: Susan Manko, “Are American Parents Too Afraid of Concussions?” 05 Oct, 2015.

Youth Football Endorsed by Concussion Doctor

Risks of CTE are anecdotal, without evidence

Julian Bailes is is the brain researcher portrayed by actor Alec Baldwin in the movie Concussion. He works closely with Bennet Omalu, the forensic pathologist who it can be said started the war on concussions in football. But while the two partner to study traumatic brain injuries, they have differing opinions regarding the risks of concussion and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)  in youth football.

The New York Times recently ran an op-ed by Omalu, who is a vocal opponent of youth tackle football. Bailes, on the other hand, encourages youngsters to participate in youth football and other organized sports. He cites both the social benefits and ongoing safety improvements in leagues since the furor over concussions began several years ago.

Research vs. anecdotal evidence

Bailes, whose two children play football, is the chairman of the Pop Warner Football medical advisory committee. He’s concerned that the film and Omalu’s article will inevitably keep many parents from having their children play contact sports. He disagrees with the premise that youngsters are at risk for CTE, which results from repeated blows to the head. In his opinion, CTE is an issue for only a minority of former NFL players and a few current players  due to the safety reforms that have been put in place.

Bailes also points out that former players determined to have suffered CTE, which is only diagnosable after death, were those who were known to have displayed possible signs of the disease.

There are no facts supporting diagnosed cases of CTE or brain damage in youth that resulted from playing youth football, said Bailes. Bailes wants parents to understand how the sport has specifically improved the rules for safer play and practice. The ongoing efforts of concussion awareness education for players, parents, and coaches helps parents make the best decision for their child. He concedes that other changes may be ahead such as eliminating punt returns to make the sport as safe as possible.

Concussion risk management

Children participate in risky activities all the time, from snow skiing to driving a car.“We teach [our children] a lot of sports and activities, and so part of that is our responsibility to teach them the safe and right way to do it. But at the end of the day all these activities have potential risks,”  said Bailes.

We have many articles on concussions and risk management programs for youth football and other sports. We at Sadler Sports & Recreation Insurance take great pride in promoting the prevention of injuries and best risk management practices so claims can be avoided. Feel free to contact us for more information or for assistance in getting a fast quote for your league or team.

Source: Neil Best, “Concussion’ neurosurgeon Julian Bailes endorses youth football,” 10 Dec. 2015.

10-Second Sideline Concussion Test

 Software tracks eye movement on iPad

As the sports world continues to focus on concussion prevention, it’s no wonder innovators are coming up with faster, smarter ways to detect a brain injuries. EyeGuide, start-up group out of Texas, has introduced a concussion

EyeGuide’s Focus technology uses a headset connected to an iPad to track eye movement. Users set a baseline reading and then repeat the test when it’s suspected they may have suffered a concussion. Coaches can have each player take the test at the beginning of the season to set their normal baseline eye function. The Focus is then used on the sidelines for immediate comparison on players suspected of suffering concussions.

New technology using known methods of concussion detection.

EyeGuide’s Focus system was developed after years of research at Texas Tech University. The software quickly measures neurological impairment following protocols established in neuroscience research. There are similar products on the market aimed at aiding coaches and trainers to detect concussions immediately.

Eyeguide explains the Focus technology in layman’s terms by comparing it to the follow-my-finger eye test given to suspected drunk drivers.

Players avoiding concussion diagnosis vs. intelligent technology

Approximately 500,000 concussions are reported in youth sports across the U.S. each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Eyeguide, knowing that even more concussion go unreported, took into account that players fear being removed from play if they report symptoms of a concussion.The Focus technology gets smarter with use as it compares each player’s eye movements with a database of other athlete’s records. This prevents players from cheating the system.

Company still awaiting funding

The company is still awaiting start-up financing, which it believes to be imminent. Therefore, the product has not yet hit the market.

Sadler Sports & Recreation Insurance is all about safety and injury prevention. We offer more information on concussion research and prevention on our blog and free concussion risk management resources in our risk management library.

Source:  Mary-Ann Russon, “EyeGuide Focus: This eye-tracking headset can diagnose concussions in just 10 seconds,” 3 Dec. 2015.

Concussion Paranoia Trend in Youth Tackle Football on Decline

Many mainstream media outlets, bloggers and brain injury research groups have had a field day so far in reporting on the dangers of concussions and CTE and how youth tackle football is very dangerous. It seems as if many of them need for football to be very dangerous to further their interests. Generally, those in the media need an entertained audience and research groups need continued funding.

We recently blogged about two events that represent a return to common sense. The first is a report published by the American Academy of Pediatrics on safety in youth tackle football. The second is news that a judge dismissed a concussion class-action lawsuit against the Illinois High School Association. Interestingly enough, neither of these two events have received any significant amount of press.

Just to be clear, the media and these brain injury research groups have served an important function in the education of players, parents, administrators and staff on the dangers of concussions and too early return to play. They also reinforced the need for mandatory concussion risk management protocols that must be implemented by local youth tackle football organizations. Please see our youth tackle football brain injury risk management program under the concussion resources of the risk management page on our website. However, talk of widespread brain damage in youth football and the need to ban football is not based in science.

AAP Makes Safety Recommendations for Youth Tackle Football

American Academy of Pediatrics says no need to delay teaching of proper tackling techniques to younger age groups

The American Academy of Pediatrics is tackling the issue of safety in youth football with new recommendations published in this month’s issue of Pediatrics. The AAP statement is a result of research on football injuries, head and neck injuries in particular, and the connection between tackling to football-related injuries.

The main points of the AAP recommendations are:

  • Enforcement of proper tackling methods by officials and coaches, i.e. not tolerating head-first tackles.
  • Informing players about the benefits of play vs. potential risk of injury.
  • Offering more players opportunities to play through expansion of non-tackle leagues.
  • Putting athletic trainers on the field to assist in preventing injuries.

No perfect answers to safety risks

The removal or delay of introducing tackling are ideas that get floated regularly. According to Greg Landry, co-author of AAP’s recommendation statement, delaying the tackling experience until players are older and stronger could actually result in higher injury rates. The AAP would not go so far as to recommend removing tackling from youth football. Doing so would “dramatically reduce the risk of serious injuries to players, but it would fundamentally change the sport,” said William Meehan, III, a co-author of the statement.

The AAP stance is that proper tackling techniques should be taught early, even if tackling isn’t incorporated into the game. The AAP also encourages reducing the impact to players’ heads through ongoing coach instruction in proper tackling methods.

Tackle football is played by nearly 1.1 million high school players and consistently ranks as one of the most popular sports for youth athletes. There are untold millions  more ranging from 5 to 15 years of age playing in youth leagues.

In my opinion

These common sense recommendations help to restore balance when so many are trying to stir the pot and predict the “end of football” for their self serving interests. The bottom line is that all sports and recreational activities involve risks, but in most cases, the benefits outweigh the risks. I do question whether youth leagues can afford to have athletic trainers on the sidelines at every practice.

Source: “The American Academy of Pediatrics Tackles Youth Football Injuries.” 25 Oct. 2015.

IL High School Assn. Concussion Class-action Lawsuit Dismissed

Judge uses head in rendering decision

An Illinois concussion class-action lawsuit, which is the first concussion class action against a state high school association, has been dismissed. The suit was filed by players against the Illinois High School Association. The judge ruled that IHSA has put policies in place to improve the safety of the game and minimize brain injury risks. Judge Leroy Martin, Jr. also stated that mandating costly requirements would only cause football to be unaffordable for many schools.

The judge recognized IHSA’s efforts to protect student athletes, and that it has no direct relationship to football or the plaintiffs. In addition, his written decision read in part, “Imposing broader liability on this defendant would certainly change the sport of football and potentially harm it or cause it to be abandoned.”

The suit against the IHSA is the first of its kind against an organization overseeing high school football. The plaintiffs were asking the court to supervise high school management of football head injuries and seeking payment for medical testing of former students who played from as far back as 2002. The suit’s lead plaintiff played from 2010 to 2014 and states he continues to suffer memory loss from injuries suffered during that time.

The arguments

IHSA argued that it’s not an NFL-like cash cow and has an annual revenue of only $10 million to cover over 40 sports and other activities among the state’s high schools. There would be no room in the budget to comply with any requirements imposed by the court, according Thomas Heiden, the attorney representing IHSA.  He also argued that covering the payment the plaintiffs requested would lead to poorer schools shutting down their football programs and leaving only the students in wealthy schools eligible to participate.

According to plaintiffs’ attorney Joe Siprut, IHSA was giving the false notion that high school football is being threatened, and that improved safety would lead to its survival. He argued that the sport is already in danger since many fearful parents are not allowing their students to play.

In my opinion

This is a common sense ruling that may help to restore some balance against the media and research group-induced paranoia that evidently needs youth and high school football to be very dangerous to serve their interests. But, of course, this is just a trial court ruling and we probably have not seen the last of these. The good news is that the educational outreach programs and new risk management protocols seem to be having a positive impact.

Source: Michael Tarm and Sara Burnett, “Judge Tosses Concussions Lawsuit,” 20 Oct., 2015.

USA|Heads Up Football Imposes Onerous Contractual Requirements on Leagues

Shifts responsibility to leagues to pay for concussion lawsuits arising out of Heads Up course content and instruction

USA Football (USAFB), the governing body of youth football and potential deep pocket target in future lawsuits involving brain injury and concussions, has imposed onerous contractual requirements on member leagues that have adopted USAFB’s Heads Up Football (HUF) tackle training course. The potential effect of these contractual requirements is to shift the responsibility to pay for brain injury lawsuits away from USAFB/HUF and to the leagues in cases where both parties are named as defendants in a lawsuit.

Read fine the print for objectionable insurance and indemnification/hold harmless provisions

Prior to being able to access the 2015 HUF training course, leagues must first sign an 8-page contract with USAFB which includes objectionable sections dealing with both insurance requirements and hold harmless/indemnification transfer of liability. This is a classic example of “risk transfer 101” where the party in power imposes its superior strength and bargaining power on the weaker party. Furthermore, in this case, the party that is being shielded (USAFB|HUF) is providing a high-risk service that could be a lightning rod for potential litigation.

Without getting deep into the technicalities, to follow is a brief summary of the objections:

 The insurance requirements section is worded to require the league to name USAFB|HUF as an additional insured under the league’s General Liability policy and furthermore states that the league’s insurance is to be primary to USAFB|HUF’s policy. The intent appears to be to shift the responsibility to pay for legal defense and settlement from USAFB|HUF’s insurance carrier to the league’s insurance carrier in cases where negligence is alleged against both parties.

 The indemnification/hold harmless provision requires the league to assume the liability of USAFB|HUF in the event that the league breaches or defaults on any one of the 10 member obligations when implementing the HUF program. Leagues that can’t prove that they have implemented all 10 requirements may unknowingly be assuming liability that would normally belong to USAFB|HUF.

Complaints by leagues, insurance carriers, insurance agents

These requirements have resulted in numerous complaints by local leagues, national youth football sanctioning bodies, and insurance agents and carriers that specialize in this niche. At least one prominent insurance carrier that serves the sports niche has refused to comply with the additional insured requirement for many of its clients.

Example of how many brain injury lawsuits may play out

Any concussion/brain injury lawsuit filed by an injured player is likely to name multiple defendants including the league and its directors, officers, and staff as well as the vendor that provided the tackle training instruction, i.e. USA Football|Heads Up Football. Under the legal theory of contributory negligence, for example, the league may be found to be 50% negligent (for negligent supervision and instruction) and USAFB|HUF may be found to be 50% negligent (for negligent course content and instruction).

Normally in such cases the insurance carriers of both parties would pay for the respective parties’ own legal defense and the court apportioned negligence percentage of settlement or adverse jury verdict costs. However, with the addition of the objectionable insurance requirements and indemnification/hold harmless provision, it is feared that the outcome would be altered so that the league would be responsible to pay for all of USAFB|HUF’s legal defense and settlement costs. In other words, the league could be responsible to pay for 100% of all legal defense costs and settlement costs for both parties. At least that is the opinion of several experienced and reputable insurance and risk management experts who have reviewed the terms of the contract.

4 reasons why the objectionable requirements are unfair and detrimental to leagues, insurance carriers, and youth tackle football as a whole

  1.  In cases where both the league and USAFB|HUF are named in a lawsuit, the General Liability insurance carrier of USAFB|HUF should be responsible for paying for its own legal defense and any settlement or adverse jury verdict costs to the extent that a court apportions negligence to USAFB|HUF.  USAFB|HUF should have enough confidence in its own course content and instruction to be willing to assume the risks of its own negligence.
  2. The insurance requirement is backwards in that it should be the league that requests USAFB|HUF to issue a certificate evidencing that it carries $1,000,000 in General Liability and in naming the league as “additional insured.” After all, USAFB|HUF is the vendor that is providing the high-risk service in exchange for a fee. Leagues should require all their vendors to provide such insurance protection including umpire crews, concessions, field maintenance, janitorial, fireworks, etc., instead of the other way around, as is the case here.
  3. Any time a league names another party as an additional insured, the league is sharing its limits with the additional insured. This results in a reduction of limits available to the league and its directors, officers, employees, and volunteers. In a situation where a vendor is providing a high-risk service, additional insured status should only be granted when absolutely necessary to protect an additional insured against the sole negligence of the league.
  4. By deflecting the claims to the local leagues and their carriers, USAFB|HUF could be damaging the leagues’ loss records and jeopardizing their access to affordable insurance or any insurance in the future. In the relatively small niche of youth tackle football insurance, adverse claims history can quickly snowball and impact the few underwriters of this coverage.

Leagues should demand that USAFB | HUF amend the contract

Leagues should demand a more equitable contract with amended insurance requirements and an indemnification/hold harmless provision that restores fairness to the equation. In cases where negligence is alleged against both parties, each party should be responsible for its own negligence. One acceptable solution would be alter the current contract to drop the additional insured requirement and the indemnification/hold harmless obligation on the part of the league should not be triggered by failure to comply with all 10 of the member obligations.

Recent discussions with USAFB over these concerns have resulted in incremental improvements for our American Youth Football clients; however, the provisions are still troublesome in my opinion.

USAFB|HUF should be commended on its development and implementation of the Heads Up tackle training program. However, leagues should think twice about signing the contract as it now exists.

John Sadler

Balancing the Concussion Hype

Looking at both sides of the sensationalism

Over the past few years, the media has kept concussions, particularly with respect to football, in the headlines – some would argue ad nauseum. But the truth is, the press attention and research into causes, long-term effects and prevention is provoking both good and bad outcomes.

The best outcome is the awareness being brought to the general public about diagnosis, second-impact syndrome, removal, and return-to-play policies. Players who have been clocked are no longer being told to “just suck it up.” There are now concussion laws on the books in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and required concussion training for youth coaches and athletic trainers.

However, there is definitely a downside to the hysteria, according to Rance A. Boren, a Texas neurologist. “The notion that everyone who plays football going to be mentally unstable in 15 years is just not true,” he said.

Boren points out that the majority of sports concussion research has focused on professional and college level athletes, not high school athletes. This generally points to the number of hits a player sustains over a period of time, as opposed to the force of a few hits. A player with a decade-long professional career preceded by four years of college ball who likely also played youth football is an example of someone at risk for the long-term injuries frequently seen in the media. The kid who started playing football at 12 and stopped after three or four years of high school ball is hardly ever in that risk category.

It’s important to understand that CTE is not a risk associated with young football athletes –  only a small fraction of NFL and college players exhibit its effects.  CTE is not caused by a single or even multiple concussions that have been properly treated. The word chronic in CTE means the trauma resulted from multiple sub-concussive brain injuries sustained over a long period of time. CTE is usually something boxers or NFL linemen might experience after sustaining thousands of blows to the head over the course of their careers.

However, second-impact syndrome and unreported concussions resulting in subsequent injuries are more common at the high school level. Susceptibility to second-impact syndrome is biological. Boren explains that “metabolic buffering syntheses” haven’t been able to reset. So if you are hit again during that short period between an initial hit and recovery, then you are going to do more damage. If you are then hit again, then you do even more damage.”

It’s for this reason that the University Interscholastic League instituted a 10-day return-to-play rule. The 10-day period begins after all symptoms of concussion have subsided. Returning to play too soon can affect reaction time and vision, which leaves players vulnerable to other injuries.

We invite you to read our many articles on concussions and concussions relating to football

Source: Travis M. Smith, “Concussions: A headache of a problem,” 23 June, 2015.