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We pray that no athlete, especially a student-athlete, must suffer an injury. Unfortunately injuries are not always preventable, particularly in the most competitive levels of sports such as NCAA Division I athletics where many athletes have been competing all their lives and are eager to give it their all.

What happens if a student-athlete is injured while competing? Do they have insurance?

As both sports fans and insurance experts, we were curious about this, so we did a little research and here is what we’ve come up with.

What the rules say

Firstly, let’s talk about the NCAA’s own insurance rules and policies. The NCAA bylaws necessitate that student-athletes have insurance protection with coverage limits of $90,000 or more for athletic-related injuries.1

In addition, the NCAA provides their own Catastrophic Injury Insurance to athletes should they suffer traumatic, lasting injuries. According to the NCAA website, the policy provides “up to $20 million in lifetime benefits – medical expenses, monthly disability cash payments, funds to modify homes to accommodate wheelchairs, etc. – to student-athletes who become totally disabled while practicing or playing.”1

However, this doesn’t cover standard injuries. Instead, the school or athlete themselves (or their parent/guardian) is responsible for providing this coverage.

What the numbers say

In a 2016 survey conducted by the NCAA and completed by the head athletic trainers of 70% of Division I schools, 16% of schools indicated that they don’t fully cover the cost of athletically related injuries, but only 6% of the respondents stated that their university required student-athletes to provide their own insurance.1 It was common for students at universities to sustain out-of-pocket costs if they needed a prescription or a second opinion on an injury.

Moreover, this response was only from Division I schools and did not account for the rest of the NCAA. According to AthleteScholarship.net, a website that seeks to “bring college recruits and their families the advice and resources they need…”, most institutions require that student-athletes have their own insurance policy before they can join a team.2

What the experts say

There is the added risk of participating in college sports since athletes are not (legally) paid to play. If they get injured, they don’t have a professional athlete’s salary to cover expenses, plus, those who plan to go pro could miss out on that salary in the future due to an injury in college.

To counteract the risk, robust insurance protection is becoming more common for not just top-draft-prospect athletes, but Division I colleges themselves.3 This gives athletes more of an incentive to stay in school longer and not opt out of additional end-of-season contests like “Bowl Games” or invitational tournaments like the NIT with the intent of avoiding the risk of injuries that may decrease their draft stock.

More importantly, safety nets such as college athlete insurance, disability policies and other insurance protections are a positive boost in college athletics, regardless of a student-athlete’s skill level, sport, or athletic decisions.

 “It is a fundamental responsibility of Division I institutions to care for student-athletes’ overall well-being,” stated Jim Phillips, the athletics director of Northwestern University and chair of the NCAA Division I Council. He feels that the responsibility towards the student-athlete continues long after they graduate.1

Phillips added, “There is more work to be done in this regard, well beyond athletically related injuries, and finding the appropriate levels of care is a top priority.”1

Perhaps this could call for a thorough insurance plan mandatorily offered by either the school or the NCAA itself. If you are a student-athlete or looking to become one, you should contact your school's athletic department and ask them about what insurance protections they have in place.

What else is there to say?

Insurance has a place in all of our lives, even those of us gifted with prolific talents like athletes, performers, and actors. 

Sidle Insurance takes pride in being the guide to many folks as they navigate the insurance world looking for safety, peace of mind, and affordable protection. If you’re looking for insurance, we encourage you to reach out to us today.


1Burnsed, Brian. “Survey: Most DI Schools Provide Injury Coverage.” NCAA.org - The Official Site of the NCAA, 25 May 2016, www.ncaa.org/about/resources/media-center/news/survey-most-di-schools-provide-injury-coverage

2“Health Coverage For College Scholarship Athletes” AthleticScholarships.net – Get Recruited to Play College Sports https://www.athleticscholarships.net/athleteshealth.htm

3VanHaaren, Tom. “How athletes get insurance and figure out what their bodies are worth” ESPN.com, 7 Sep 2017, http://www.espn.com/college-football/story/_/id/20592832/how-college-football-players-get-insurance

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