Insurers need to keep a close eye on CTE in sports, says provider

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Brain injuries in sport are a growing problem and something the insurance industry needs to remain extra vigilant on, believes Sutton Special Risk president and CEO Greg Sutton.
This was given even greater emphasis last week with the release of the report on chronic traumatic encephalopathy, more commonly known as CTE, by the Journal of the American Medical Association. The Journal examined 202 former football players from the NFL, CFL, college and high-school, and diagnosed CTE in 177 of them. Currently the CFL is locked in a $200-million class-action lawsuit brought by ex-players over concussions and brain trauma.
Sutton Special Risk has been providing professional sport insurance for over three decades to athletes of all stripes. As the science improves on brain injuries, the insurance industry will need to respond in kind, particularly when it comes to the underwriting process, explains Sutton.
““Now there is so much focus on concussions, which is a positive thing,” he says. “We are very mindful of getting accurate reports on players on what their concussion history is. If they have had even a couple of concussions, then we wouldn’t underwrite that condition. There’s definitely a lot more focus on that.”
The spotlight on CTE is a relatively new phenomena for sports. That goes for sports insurance too, which has evolved over the years to reflect changes on the field, ice, court or slopes.
 “We have been in this business for almost 40 years, and back in the early days the focus was really on knees,” says Sutton. “Now with the advances in surgical procedures, the knees can be rehabilitated. It’s not as severe as it used to be.”
For someone that has achieved a level of success where sport is a profession rather than hobby, sports insurance can come in different forms. For individual players, permanent total disability is more common, as it covers for a career-ending injury or illness. While the likes of the NHL and NBA have their own dedicated league plans, other sports are more likely to use temporary total disability coverage for players. Pro sports is big money, so franchises are keen to protect their greatest assets.
“The teams use temporary total disability insurance to protect the contractual obligations of the players,” says Sutton. “The contracts are usually guaranteed, so the team would seek coverage, and if the player is injured it would provide for a good portion of that contract.”
For those without the safety net of a contract, insurance is even more important, explains Sutton.

“We see both permanent and temporary total disability and coverage purchased a lot by tennis players and golfers,” he says. “They don’t have guaranteed income; their earnings go according to their performance on a tour. If they are injured, and are out for an extended period of time then that’s an insurable interest they can protect.”

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