OT?: OTL/ESPN Article on Insurance Issues for Impact Sports

Submitted by MikeB1GMike on January 17th, 2019 at 11:53 AM

Interesting article on ESPN this morning about insurance companies unwillingness to provide coverage for head trauma or neurological damage sustained in contact sports. I'm sure some how some way leagues will find away around this but, if not do we start to see contact sports, especially football fade around the country?  Sorry if link doesn't work, first timer here. 




January 17th, 2019 at 11:58 AM ^

I’m not sure how much football will fade, but it should fade completely, unless some serious medical breakthroughs are made, or the game is played drastically different. It’s neary immoral at this point to allow your kids to play football, when the data and growing evidence states they will likely suffer brain trauma if they do. 


January 17th, 2019 at 1:04 PM ^

I said nothing about banning anything. That’s your logical leap; an overreaction argument; talk radio/news type dialog. People will indeed do whatever they choose. I simply said that with the mounting evidence regarding brain trauma in football, I don’t understand, strongly don’t understand, why a parent would have their kids play, especially when there are so many alternatives. I suspect I’m not the only one, and I imagine football will have to be reimagined somewhere down the line, even if it’s way down the line. 

Reggie Dunlop

January 17th, 2019 at 1:15 PM ^

Merrill Hoge wrote a book last year that basically says everything you've heard about football head trauma and CTE is a lie. I think he swung too far the other way, but we're definitely just scraping the surface as to what this is and what causes it and the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

I'm not an expert here, but as far as I know, there's been little-to-no study done on how many of us have CTE from a lifetime of general wear and tear. That night I drank too much, or got in that car accident, or rode Millenium Force 5 times in one day. The percentage of deceased NFL'ers with  confirmed CTE is ridiculous (is it 100%?). But what's the percentage of non-NFL players? Is that also 100%? I don't believe we know that answer yet and it kind of matters.



January 17th, 2019 at 1:31 PM ^

The most recent article I read states 86 percent of college football players had CTE, with caveats of course. 

A study published in 2018 by researchers at the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank found that 190 of 202 football players (94 percent) studied who played in college or the NFL have been diagnosed with CTE. Among players who played in college but did not play professionally, CTE was diagnosed in 86 percent (57 of 66). 86 percent does not represent the prevalence of CTE in former college football players, as families are more likely to donate if their loved one had symptoms associated with CTE. Scientists are trying to understand how these football families, without medical training, have correctly diagnosed their loved one with CTE nearly nine out of 10 times, as there are no published methods for diagnosing CTE in living people.


January 17th, 2019 at 1:47 PM ^

Did you not read the second half of the quoted paragraph/study? It's likely lower than 86%, because the study was largely conducted on brains where the person already showed symptoms of CTE.

And again I never said banned, but parents should seriously consider the risk of having their kids play football, because I also suspect, as more studies are conducted, the data will further show football puts the brain at considerable risk of serious trauma in a large number of players. 


January 17th, 2019 at 2:04 PM ^

Gymnasts, cheerleaders, and soccer players are at great risk, and for some injuries MORE risk, than football players.

Football's a tough sport but it is my no means a sentence for long term brain disorders.  More kids should play because it teaches a hell of a lot of life lessons.


January 17th, 2019 at 2:40 PM ^

"Life lessons" are bullshit if they come along with brain damage.

We don't have any definitive data yet on any of this.  But it sure feels like the early days of research into cigarettes and cancer.  Everything points to football being super bad for your brain, but no one really wants to fully believe it or acknowledge the ramifications of that yet.  

Finding a solution for this problem may be almost impossible as well, especially if they find that CTE is caused by an accumulation of all the small hits and not the big hits.  You can probably legislate a lot of the big head-targeting hits out of the game, but if it is the years and years of small hits that adds up to CTE, there is no way to get rid of those.  


January 17th, 2019 at 2:57 PM ^

What about eSports then?  And video game addiction?  And software developers knowingly influencing youth brain development and attention spans by using video games to influence and release dopamine in brains on command and at key points through feedback loops and in-game surprises?

Where is the ESPN OTL thread on eSports and internet / video game addiction in South Korea and China and now in USA?  How about the life of a couch-surfing video game broadcaster who's sedentary existence consists of streaming themselves playing a video game 20 hours a day in order to get enough views on YouTube to monetize?  

How about the ESPN OTL thread on sitting for 8 hours a day?  Did I miss something... or are eSports "athletes" doing more than just sitting and twiddling the ol' thumbs?  Where is the long term study on their brains?  And arteries? 


January 17th, 2019 at 3:53 PM ^

So wait, because some fools sit around on their butts playing video games a lot, we shouldn't worry about the fact that football seems to have a direct link to brain damage?

There have been all kinds of news stories about how sitting around and not getting any exercise is bad for people.  That doesn't mean we should ignore the possibility that football is causing long-term brain injuries.  I'm not saying football should be shut down, but ignoring the possible link here is just foolish.  

There are a hell of a lot of ways to get exercise in life that don't involve having your brain rattled around in your head.  


January 17th, 2019 at 4:14 PM ^

big picture, CTE is at it's researching dawn...still a lot we do not know. Personally I played since 8th grade, that's as early as they would allow. I had head impacts, playing DE, it was a LOT of hand shivers to the helmet day in and day out in practice. On more than one occasion I heard a shotgun loud bang in my ears from head to head contact and felt spaced out, and sick to my stomach...to this day, no signs of CTE, and perhaps I never will. Yeah some people get their 'bell rung' and have zero ill effect later in life.

Football is NOT going away in the next decade...NFL has too much money invested in stadiums, investors, TV deals, merchandise, etc...NCAA is not far behind as a total entity...and in most home towns, friday night is the image of the town...might their hand be forced if more and more kids and families say yeah, pass on that not interested? yep. My own son played from third grade until the end of his junior season. Part of the choice to stop was an idiot head coach...another story another day. The other part was 'dad, I don't want to play in college, I want to have a functioning brain later in life...I'm done." A 17 year old realized it's not worth it. I supported his choice, I admired his maturity. The current state of football in its size, speed, and incredible strength is beyond the intent and limits of the early stages of the game...


January 17th, 2019 at 7:13 PM ^

We shouldn't ignore the risks.  Probably need to make some major changes to the way this is done at youth levels and I'm not opposed to tackle football being regulated in some or fashion before high school.  And then, at the high school level, certainly making it safer, eliminating kickoffs, etc.  Probably will see an elimination at the NFL level.  AAF (new league) is doing away with them too I believe. 


January 17th, 2019 at 2:52 PM ^

Last Chance U on Netflix does a great job of showcasing this.  Many young men need discipline, structure, a team, brothers, and a coach in order to help steady their lives and escape bad situations or broaden horizons.  On net, the sport of football helps these young men broaden their minds, grow their bodies and get new opportunities.    

The people cheering on the demise of football and other team "contact" sports - and indeed, sports in general - don't understand the other positives and utility gained from participating in these activities.  To them, this could easily be replaced by a sewing club or a "public works fund" or something.  

Also - when is eSports and video game addiction, and the effects of tablets and smart-phone games on youth memory and attention and brain development going to undergo scrutiny by ESPN?  Ever see a negative eSport article or video game addiction piece by OTL? 


January 17th, 2019 at 1:42 PM ^

Actually yes, another study of 198 individuals who had no exposure to contact sports showed not a single one had CTE.

"a 2015 Mayo Clinic study co-authored by McKee tested the brains of 198 individuals who had no exposure to contact sports in their lives — and not a single one of those 198 brains showed signs of CTE." https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/christinebrennan/2018/10/24/cte-football-merril-hoge-ignores-evidence-facts/1750125002/ 

Reggie Dunlop

January 17th, 2019 at 2:59 PM ^

Are you asking as noted medical expert Laser Wolf? Or dipshit internet antagonist Laser Wolf?

"In an effort to set the record straight, Hoge and board-certified forensic neuropathologist Dr. Peter Cummings explore the hidden agendas and misinformation fueling the CTE hysteria machine. Armed with extensive research, critical insight, and expert interviews, they address some of the common myths surrounding the disease, examining significant flaws in the often-cited studies and exposing the sensationalistic reporting that dominates today’s CTE dialogue."


January 17th, 2019 at 1:27 PM ^

My son plays. I coached him. I don't see a problem with Pop Warner up through HS. 

I think the measures we've seen in college are already starting to make a big difference. 

None of the studies I've seen either match with what I've seen in real life, or address a large group of asymptomatic people who play football. 

I played football. My Dad, a successful attorney, played football. All of my (successful) uncles played football. But no one played past HS. 

What I have seen is alot of studies on 'these 100 people reporting symptoms all have CTE'. 

Between football, Hockey, and Wrestling we have tens of thousands of kids going back decades. If it was as prevalent as people say we'd have seen problems sooner than now. 



January 17th, 2019 at 1:28 PM ^

Wow!  UMChicago, that is probably the dumbest comment that someone could make.  It reminds me of gun owners that swear everyone is out to take away all their guns.  Time to grow up, and realize that smoking and contact sports that are proven to cause head trauma are not even close to the same things as hamburgers.  

In reality, I don't blame health insurance companies for not wanting to cover actions that are proven to cause long-term health issues, because it costs them money for years to come.

Blue in Paradise

January 17th, 2019 at 1:58 PM ^

I know dozens if not hundreds of men, including myself, that played football at least through high school and literally know one person that sustained a major injury- and that was during strength training.  To my knowledge, none of them are suffering from CET or at least nobody to an extant that it has gone public.

In the meantime, there were three kids in my school that sustained major injuries from getting hit while on a bike and multiple teens died / suffered life altering injuries from car accidents.

As an adult, I know of people that have died or sustained major accidents from white water rafting and skiing.  I have never heard that it is immoral to let your kids ski, ride their bike, drive at 16/17 or go whitewater rafting.  My personal empirical evidence is not proof but I bet those stats hold up across most communities.

Not saying we shouldn’t make football as safe as possible, but calling it immoral is a major exaggeration.  The fact is that football is high profile and “CET / football is dangerous” became a trendy talking point for the media to latch on to.  Football risk is real but it has gotten blown out of proportion to risk in many other sports and activities.


January 17th, 2019 at 2:10 PM ^

Yes, immoral was the wrong word. Every person has their own system of morality and I overstepped with that language. Though in the face of the current data, I will say, personally, to find it immoral to let my kid play football. I'm also not sure what other activities have to do with this argument, unless you balance the data regarding the risk of those activities against the current CTE data. Any activity/action/inaction carries a risk, but the data suggests playing football carries substantial risk for a large(r) number of its participants. White water rafting, even though I have no data, probably not nearly as much risk. 


January 17th, 2019 at 2:40 PM ^

For me, because of my kids likely future, the youth/HS football levels are key. 

Do we have CTE data looking at kids who played Elementary-HS and are asymptomatic? 

Do we have CTE data looking at players who are asymptomatic? 

Do we have numbers of kids Elemenatry-HS who played and are symptomatic vs. those that played and aren't? 

I haven't seen any. That isn't to say their isn't any, I'm trying to be open minded. But almost all the data I've seen has been studying people who are symptomatic. It makes sense that this is the data we have because you don't have a current way to study living people for CTE, from what I've read. 

But to take that and say all football at all levels is dangerous is too far of a leap, in my opinion. We see head injuries in *multiple* sports, including theoretically non contact sports like Soccer. It is the head injuries that are given as the main reason for CTE; so if there is a great number of concussions in soccer is that immoral to play that sport? 

Should girls soccer fade away? 


"WEDNESDAY, March 15, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Female soccer players suffer the highest rate of concussions among all high school athletes in the United States, a new study finds."

If you feel that way, do you not watch or support those sports because you feel they cause brain injuries? 

My personal feeling is that we don't have the entire data set yet. I'd also be curious to see if we have people with CTE brain structures who are asymptomatic. 

If football and other contact sports, which have been around in HUGE numbers for decades, all have significant dangers of concussions and subsequent CTE, then I believe we'd have seen symptomatic people in huge numbers long before now.

For College I think the risk goes up, but again, we have a large number of people who have played various levels of college ball for decades. I also think that we can, and have, taken steps in equipment and technique that will make the sport(s) safer. 

Just my opinion given what I've read. YMMV. 

Blue in Paradise

January 17th, 2019 at 3:47 PM ^

Nobody talks about girls’ soccer because it simply doesn’t generate clicks/views/eyeballs/etc....

I mean people barely talk about hockey and it is a major sport that isn’t any safer than football in terms of concussions and general head and body injuries.

Football is king in the U.S. and so it is going to get the most attention- for better and for worse.


Mike Damone

January 17th, 2019 at 12:23 PM ^

You are right.  It is a highly profitable business, and one way or another, anything can be insured.

Have to say though - your statement and tone suggest that all of the college and pro football players are "victims" here.  Is playing football any different than riding a motorcycle without a helmet?  At this stage - it is well documented that sustained playing of football is likely to cause long-term head injuries.  Whatever happened to adults making their own decisions, when they understand the risk?

I am tired of this fucking victim mentality out there for stuff like this.  There should be some level of coverage to help people that get hurt - but jesus, take the risk or don't, and shut the hell up...


January 17th, 2019 at 12:31 PM ^

People engage in way more dangerous activities for way less fame and fortune. Bullrider died this week after getting stomped on by a bull.

At the NFL level and at the college level football players are adults making a cost-benefit decision.

Youth sports are a different matter.



Maximinus Thrax

January 17th, 2019 at 1:13 PM ^

The victims would be the individuals making covered claims.  

In any line of work you may enter into short of military service your employer bears a significant risk that the activities they pay you to undertake could result in various personal injuries or damages.  To that end, even temp agencies hiring out secretaries carry umbrella insurance policies and workers comp policies.  It appears that football teams may not be able to carry such coverage any longer from the usual providers, so a self-insurance provider would be the obvious choice.  

Reggie Dunlop

January 17th, 2019 at 1:06 PM ^

A captive wouldn't help anything. The problem is paying out enormous claims. You still have to pay claims in a captive. You still have to pay for legal defense. You still have to support a captive with reinsurance which nobody would touch. 

You could jack up tickets to support the cost, but a captive itself isn't the answer to this. That's just another way to insure. Captives can save you money if you perform well (minimal claims), but sheer number of claims is the problem here.

Maybe the NFL and NCAA could afford it, but youth sports and high schools do not make enough money to weather that storm.


January 17th, 2019 at 12:30 PM ^

Knowing that I could suffer brain trauma wouldn't have changed my mind when choosing to play football and I feel as though many people who have played or are playing now agree.  I doubt this will affect much of anything.


January 17th, 2019 at 1:11 PM ^

It may have changed your parents minds, though. I don’t plan on letting my son play football — he’s more into My Little Pony so I don’t think it will even be an issue — even though I played as a kid and I love the game still. It will take a while, because it’s become such a part of American culture, but I suspect in a couple generations football will be a far less popular sport to play and to a slightly lesser degree to watch. 

The Mad Hatter

January 17th, 2019 at 12:36 PM ^

I'm surprised they don't self-insure like most big companies do.  Just charge the players outrageous amount for coverage that doesn't kick in at all until you hit a massive deductible.

Just like my "good" company provided insurance does now.

Reggie Dunlop

January 17th, 2019 at 12:58 PM ^

You're talking about health insurance for the player. This is commercial general liability and workers compensation to protect and defend the company (league or organization).

It's a long article and nobody gives a shit about insurance, so here's a quick summary. Any (above board) job you've ever had has been required to carry workers compensation insurance. If you get hurt roofing a house or making car parts or trip on a seam in your office carpet, your company is obligated to cover you for your medical injuries and lost wages.

Cut and dry. Fine and dandy. Roofers cost a hell of a lot more to insure than an accounting office, but it's a known industry expense we all deal with.

However, if every roofer or accountant under the sun is going to double-back after 20 or 30 years and claim doing math or swinging a hammer gave them irreparable brain damage, the insurance company is going to lose its ass. There's no premium high enough to offset the potential claims of such class action suits that will most definitely spawn more lawsuits.

That's where football is. Unless scientists get down to the core of CTE and prove it's not their fault (and they're nowhere near that right now), it's impossible to say whether your career as a high school bench warmer gave you brain damage or not. And in most states, a court will side with the plaintiff at the expense of the insurer.  That's why lawyers chase ambulances and advertise for your slip-and-fall. They're easy money because everybody feels for the little guy.

Insurance companies could get destroyed by this. So they're endorsing policies to exclude brain injuries or just bailing out altogether. And that does the league or school no good. If they get sued without insurance to back them, they're going out of business. 

The Mad Hatter

January 17th, 2019 at 1:33 PM ^

Thanks for the summary.  If the players didn't have a union they'd probably all be converted to 1099 contractors.

If there's only one workers comp carrier for the entire league, they have a serious problem.  That carrier won't be willing to take all that risk forever without charging insanely high premiums.

Luckily college players don't get workers comp benefits.


January 17th, 2019 at 12:37 PM ^

This matter is certainly an issue from the broader perspective side. My brother who is a pediatrician in Mobile who routinely sees Div 1 kids come through his office-is given pause in this regard. And here, my wife who is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner encounters real life issues too. 

I do not know what the answer is here. Sometimes I wonder if the solution might be more in the direction of no hard pads-only a helmet...as opposed to all this armor that "safely" makes one a projectile. 

Anonymous Coward (not verified)

January 17th, 2019 at 12:38 PM ^

Build that Wall....to protect kids from being denied coverage for football injuries!

Booted Blue in PA

January 17th, 2019 at 12:43 PM ^

I played rec. league sr. hockey for 10 years, a non-checking league.  I finally quite after my third concussion in three years (after moving up to the B division which is any experience below playing college hockey, so lots of guys in the 30's who played high school hockey).  

I think its more about cleaning up the players as it is the game. Obviously they need to do all they can to improve equipment, and impliment rules to protect players, but there will always be a dirty bastard looking for a chance to take someone out.



January 17th, 2019 at 12:45 PM ^

The NFL no longer has general liability insurance covering head trauma, according to multiple sources; just one carrier is willing to provide workers' compensation coverage for NFL teams.

You would think that something with the resources of the league would find a way to provide this, but that they do not, and that there is only one carrier that will deal with them for workers' compensation is kind of jarring to me, but at the same time, not totally shocking.