Covering Concussions

September 5, 2017

This article first appeared in the September 2017 issue of Training & Conditioning.

While a lot of work has gone into ensuring high school athletes with concussions receive proper treatment, there has been less focus on how to pay for such medical care. Some governing bodies and schools are solving this by offering separate concussion insurance.

The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) became the fourth state to provide its athletes with insurance specifically covering head injuries earlier this year. “We felt that if we really are concerned about concussions, then we had better put our money where our mouth is,” says WIAA Board of Control President Pam Foegen, who serves as Pupil Services Director at Regis Catholic Schools in Eau Claire, Wis.

Tapping into the HeadStrong Concussion Insurance Program, provided by Dissinger Reed, the cost for the coverage is $1.50 per student per year. The WIAA has chosen to cover the premiums for all athletes in grades 6 to 12, as long as the head injury occurs during participation in a game or practice sanctioned by the association or while traveling to or from a sanctioned event.

“We are making this fit within our budget,” Foegen says. “To help with the insurance, we increased regional ticket prices for the coming year by one dollar. We charge no dues or fees to our members, so there is no cost to them.”

HeadStrong serves as secondary coverage, paying for whatever expenses a student-athlete’s primary insurance does not, including co-pays and deductibles. For athletes who do not have their own insurance, HeadStrong will take over as primary. The policy will cover medical expenses up to $25,000.

“For a lot of families, visits to their primary care doctor and/or specialists for concussion can add up in the form of co-pays and deductibles,” says Foegen. “We thought this was the right thing to do to help our schools and their athletes and families.”

On a smaller scale, the Los Angeles Unified School District has implemented concussion insurance at Venice High School. It has partnered with the Play It Safe Concussion Care Program, developed by Wells Fargo Insurance, and uses discretionary funds to cover the cost. Similar to the HeadStrong program, Play It Safe offers secondary insurance and up to $25,000 of coverage, with no deductibles or co-pays. It also provides Venice student-athletes with access to specialists in the neurology department at UCLA, as well as other medical offices.

Trenton Cornelius, Interscholastic Athletics Coordinator at Venice, has found the program to work well, especially since primary care doctors don’t always have the expertise needed for treating head injuries. “Not everyone is trained in concussions,” he says. “So for us, this is more about standardizing the care our athletes receive. Every kid in California has to have primary medical insurance in order to play sports, but this insurance provides them access to specialists.”

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