Ask any doctor how to keep healthy and regular exercise is always one of the first answers. Playing a sport, be it a midweek squash game or for a Sunday league football team, is definitely a fun way to keep fit and look after yourself.
But despite the healthy lifestyle of people who play sports regularly, there is always the danger of injury.
Many amateur or recreational sports players are young, have no form of health insurance cover and could be in a serious financial situation if an injury sustained at the weekend prevents them from working. And if a professional sportsman suffers a serious injury it could mean the end of his career and a massive potential loss of earnings.
There is now a whole host of sports injury insurance plans available to protect anyone, from the amateur footballer to the professional rugby player.
Public liability is also becoming an important issue within sports injury insurance and many of these schemes include cover to protect sports players if they cause injury to others.
This includes the legal liability to pay for compensation and claimants’ costs, and expenses for accidental bodily injury or accidental loss or damage to property.
Several insurers now offer cover in this market. For example, Pinnacle has recently revamped its sports injury insurance scheme. Pinnacle’s Sports Accident Cover started out as a scheme just for Nottingham Forest football club, which it sponsored in 1997/8. According to sports product manager Karen Massingham, the product proved so popular that the company decided to make it available to the general public.
From 1999 the product was aimed at amateur teams rather than individual sports players but in September 2001 the scheme was changed to target individuals.
Massingham says the scheme is not an alternative to private medical insurance (PMI) but is aimed at a different clientele.
“This product is probably for those who are at the younger end of the market, maybe a Saturday league player of a sport who does not have a PMI or income protection (IP) policy and just wants to be covered for playing sports,” she explains.
The scheme is only available to non-professional sportsmen and women and works like a cash plan in that a cash lump sum is made available for different injuries.
Three levels of cover are available costing £4.95, £9.95 and £14.95 a month respectively.
The lowest level includes up to £1,000 payment if the client breaks a bone and up to £2,500 worth of dental cover while the highest level also includes up to six months income replacement cover.
The insurance only covers players for injuries sustained while playing sport but can cover any sport a person plays throughout the week.
“This could be very important for the amateur player who does not have other financial cover. If they have a broken leg they could be out of work for eight weeks, and if their employer doesn’t cover them for sick pay they could lose their job,” she says.
Dorset-based Broadstone Insurance has taken a different approach. It used to cover individuals but personal lines manager John Hutchings says the product was just not popular enough. Broadstone’s sports injury insurance, underwritten by Groupama, now specialises in amateur football teams, providing cover for 18 players and two club officials.
Broadstone also offers a limited youth policy from just £22 per team, which covers up to £500 medical expenses and pays £10,000 for the loss of a limb. A public liability option for youth teams is also available, starting at £12 for up to £500,000 indemnity and rising to £18 for up to £2,000,000 indemnity. The adult football policy is more expensive and ranges from £65 to £650.
However, insurer Sportscover prefers to specialise in individual cover rather than teams with its Sportsguard plan. Director Julian Hucks says: “Although we will offer teams good rates, we have avoided that area as much of the available cover gives very low levels of loss of earnings.”
Sportscover categorises sports into four different levels depending on how dangerous they are. Someone covered for an injury in one sport in a category would be covered for any other within that category. For example, a footballer would also be covered for climbing.
Although Sportsguard can cover someone participating in nearly every sport under the sun, a large amount of its income comes from a rather unusual source.
Many of Sportsguard’s policyholders participate in a sport called kite-surfing, a derivative of windsurfing that uses a kite instead of a fixed sail.
Although the implications of a sports-based injury to a recreational or amateur sports player could be serious, the effect on a professional sports player could be catastrophic.
Professional sports, especially football, are a multi-million-pound business these days with the players earning massive salaries. But an injury early in a professional’s career could mean they do not earn the salary expected.
Gary Stevens was one such footballer. He had a successful career, most notably playing and scoring in the 1983 FA cup final for Brighton. But in 1991 Stevens suffered a serious knee injury, which forced him to retire from the game at just 29 years old.
Stevens admits that at the time he felt he was underinsured and in 1997 set up Sportsure in association with the Hanover Park group to provide career ending insurance for other professional footballers.
In 1998 Stevens left Sportsure to spend time working as a trainer at Charlton Athletic Football Club but says that since he returned to the company in 2000 business is steadily increasing. “We cover 400 professional footballers from all across the divisions from the premiership right down to the conference. And in the last 18 months we have recruited 150 new clients,” he says.
Rugby is another sport where injuries can be devastating to players’ earnings. Until a few years ago all rugby clubs were amateur but five years ago that changed and there are now 12 professional clubs in England.
Marsh has been insuring rugby players for a long time. The company has an official association with the Rugby Football Union (RFU), the main body controlling the sport in this country. The RFU requires any amateur rugby club to provide its players with a minimum level of insurance against a career-ending injury.
The minimum cover costs £200 and insures the players against permanent disability and accidental death.
If a player suffers an injury which means that they cannot work they will receive a lump sum payout of £375,000.
The scheme insuring professionals is slightly different as it pays out if the player cannot work as a rugby player as opposed to any other regular career.
But Marsh does not only insure rugby players. It also specialises in personal liability and even has a golf insurance scheme.
“If you hit someone with the ball, regardless of whether you say ‘fore’ or not, you can be sued,” explains Marsh marketing assistant James Fair.
Winter sports are also becoming increasingly popular and with these comes the high chance of injury. As most people take part in winter sports while on holiday abroad, insurance against injury is usually included in the travel insurance.
For example, Club Direct’s winter sports travel insurance includes £25,000 personal accident cover and up to £10m medical expenses that can include repatriation if necessary.
But despite the advantages of various different sports injury insurance schemes, other health insurance schemes often offer many of the same benefits.
A sportsman with a PMI scheme would be covered for the treatment of most sports injuries, and an IP plan would cater for a sportsman who was forced to leave his job through injury.
However, for both the recreational or amateur sportsman who cannot afford a PMI or IP plan or for the professional sportsman who requires more specific cover, these sports injury schemes are invaluable.
They can be cheap and provide just the amount of reassurance that a sportsman may need. And Hucks believes this type of policy can also be useful for independent financial advisers (IFAs).
In particular, he believes that the schemes can be a good way for IFAs to develop a relationship with a younger person, who may come back to them for financial advice later in life.
He says: “We have been approached by IFAs who want to use sports cover as a way of starting to talk to clients. They could say, ‘We can offer you an insurance for your sport and then if you need any help with anything else give us a call.’”