Health plans and brokers have a unique opportunity to address an ever-increasing threat happening in schools and their athletic programs. Concussions in sports have been a huge topic for years as there is a constant stream of news reports about athletes who have sustained this type of injury. Although concussions by football players have received the most attention, similar rates of concussions occur in other sports with injuries prevalent in K-12 and higher education sports.
Concussion Diagnoses Up 500%
A study by FAIR Health concludes that concussion diagnoses for children under the age of 22 has risen 500% since 2010. Fair Health, which is a not-for-profit group with the mission to bring transparency to healthcare costs and health insurance information, conducted the study based on healthcare insurance claims from 2007-2015 of children ages 0-22. The concern about concussions is growing, and rightfully so, as is the range of sports such as soccer, hockey, rugby, cheerleading, wrestling and lacrosse that are reporting more and more head injuries each year.
A concussion can stem from a wide variety of activity that results in students hitting their heads when practicing a sport or in an actual game. When a concussion happens, as with any accident or illness, the student may seek assistance from the school that needs to be prepared to help. Health plans and brokers working together with schools can step in to improve concussion risk awareness and prevention.
Approximately 44 million children play sports in the U.S., according the American Academy of Pediatrics. These kids need to be at schools that are following current concussion safety recommendations, which include having athletic trainers available, pre-participation concussion education and baseline testing procedures in place.
How Insurers and Brokers Can Work to Address the Concussion Issue
Insurers and health plans can play a role in athletic safety by helping schools and universities develop and implement a concussion management plan that includes the protocol outlined above as well as return-to-learn guidelines and return-to-play guidelines. Insurers can even impose these requirements to provide coverage.
Sports are built into the fabric of everyday life for kids and communities. The necessary concern for concussion prevention needs to be woven in so playing can continue without determent to children everywhere. Brokers and health plans can be valuable partners in helping schools prevent and effectively manage the risks of student athlete concussions.
Sources: Sports Illustrated. Study Shows Concussions Up 500% in Youth Sports. 7/13/2016.
National Underwriter. Students and Concussion Risks. 2/2017. PP 30-31.