The Financial Hit of Concussion in Sport

By Pride Advice

Even those with only the mildest interest in sport will have heard about the sickening clash between Tom Stewart and Dion Prestia at the MCG on Saturday night in an AFL match. It has brought concussion in sport back into the limelight, demonstrating once again that there is still much to be done in this area.

While the world waits for sports governing bodies to do more around protecting the head, there is something we can all do now to protect our ability to earn money – ensure we have adequate insurance cover.

The financial cost of concussion is profound

Last year, Boyd Cordner, captain of the Australian Rugby League team, announced his retirement. He was 29 years old. AFL player Levi Greenwood did the same at the age of 32. For both men, the reason was the same: the debilitating effects of concussion.

You might think that late-twenties or early-thirties is a pretty good run for an elite athlete. Most of the time, this would be true. A lot of players with an established career in elite sport retire in their early thirties and move on to another career, whether that be in the media or something unrelated. But the injuries that ended Cordner’s and Greenwood’s career also jeopardise any future job they might now be considering.

The effects of concussion don’t just end a career in sport – they can end a working life entirely. The resulting financial impact can have a massive flow-on effect on the quality of the rest of your life and those of your parents, partner and children.

While a concussion from impact sport might be hard to dodge, the risk of the financial impact is something you can plan to avoid or at least lessen through TPD insurance.  

Unfortunately, for a lot of elite athletes and weekend warriors alike, their TPD coverage simply doesn’t reflect the decades of income that could be lost.  It also doesn’t reflect the financial risk that their parents might have to take on if the big hit happens.

And by the time a player starts experiencing concussions, it’s too late to seek adequate cover; insurance providers won’t touch them with a barge pole.  So the time to plan is before the first concussion event occurs.

A growing headache

Sport-related concussion is in the spotlight at the moment, as it should be. After the premature deaths of Shane Tuck, Danny Frawley and Jacinda Barclay, their brains were found to have abnormalities in their white matter upon autopsy. White matter is responsible for the brain’s neural connectivity. Its degradation is also found in those suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

That sport can cause a similar cognitive decline to dementia is a growing concern. AFL is Australia’s most participated collision sport, with around 1.5 million participants. For every 1000 hours played, the incidence of concussion is estimated at 2.2 to 17.5.

In the US, the CDC estimates that 1.6 to 3.8 million sports-related concussions occur every year, and that 10% of all athletes sustain concussions yearly.

The magnitude of the dangers of concussion can’t be understated. Peter V’landys, chairman of the Australian Rugby League Commission, has stated unequivocally that it is ‘the greatest challenge all contact sports have ever had’.

Most TPD policies do not provide adequate cover

Concussion isn’t like other injuries. When an athlete suffers a ruptured ACL, it may permanently impact upon their speed and movement or even force them into retirement. But it won’t prevent them from moving into another career once their playing days finish.

The long-term effects of concussion are similar to that of Alzheimer’s disease; they can put an end to any form of work altogether and rob a person of their capacity to earn an income. No person playing a contact sport, whether they’re at the elite level or a weekend warrior, is immune to this possibility.

Given the financial threat that concussion in sport poses, it’s of the utmost importance that athletes of any level have adequate insurance. But what does adequate insurance look like? Well, briefly, enough to cover you if your working years are cut short by several decades. In other words, a payout of a few hundred thousand dollars isn’t going to cut it.

For the elite playing in a league, there is some protection offered by league-wide policies but, in our experience, these are woefully inadequate. For those not at that level, it depends on your particular form of TPD insurance.

How’s your coverage?

The new financial year presents a great opportunity to sit down and have a conversation with your financial adviser to find out exactly what coverage you have and whether it’s appropriate to your circumstances. Considering concussion could only be a weekend away, the sooner the better.