Enjoy sports at a recreational or amateur level? Learn why income protection is worth considering.
Before you apply
Make sure you check with your insurer before you apply. Income protection policies generally can cover sports players but will exclude:
- Professional or paid participation
- Extreme sports (unless permission is expressed by the insurer)
- Combative sports
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What is income protection?
Income protection insurance provides a monthly benefit of generally 75% of your average salary should you be unable to work due to a serious illness or injury. It provides the assistance you need to keep on top of your ongoing financial commitments, such as paying your rent or mortgage repayments, groceries, bills and other expenses. There are several factors you need to consider when choosing an income protection policy, one being the subject of this article – income protection for sports players.
Does income protection cover injuries sustained from sports?
Quick answer: Yes
It is important to note that your participation in certain types of sports and/or hazardous activities generally has an effect on your income protection application. If these activities increase your likelihood to claim, your insurance provider may place a special provision on your policy, in the form of a premium loading, exclusion or extended waiting period.
Will I need to pay more?
You may need to pay what's called a premium 'loading'. A premium loading is applied to reflect an increased risk of claim, which could either be a percentage of as much as 25% or a specified dollar amount for every thousand sum you wish to insure. So, if you participate in sporting activities that are considered to be high risk, you can expect to pay higher premiums rates.
Situations where you can't get cover
An exclusion is a restriction placed on a specific condition and/or event where a benefit will not be paid. If you have suffered an injury in the past from playing sport, your insurance provider takes into consideration the following:
- the nature of your injury and degree of severity
- when the injury occurred
- the time it took for you to recover
- whether or not you continue to participate in this activity.
If your insurer finds that it is likely you will suffer the same injury, an exclusion may be applied to your policy.
You may have an extended waiting period
Your insurance provider may apply an extended waiting period instead of excluding injuries that are the result of sporting activities. As an example, if you have selected a 30-day waiting period, your insurance provider may offer you cover but with a waiting period of 90 days for any injuries sustained whilst participating in a particular sport. It is important to note that not all applicants are offered a special provision on their income protection policy just because they play sport or have suffered a sporting injury. You insurance provider may offer standard terms or ordinary rates on your cover if your sports injury was very minor and had occurred a long time ago.
Income protection or workers’ compensation?
Workers’ compensation does not cover any injuries that occur outside of work. So, if you are injured as a result of sporting or leisure activities that you partake outside of work hours, you will not be eligible for any benefit payment under workers’ compensation.
Which sports are the riskiest and most expensive to insure?
Generally, the chance of injury determines how much more it costs to insure you for participating in certain sports, as well as how severe injuries will tend to be. Motorsports, for example tend to have very severe injuries, although they may occur less frequently than in other sports, while football might have a significantly higher chance of injury, but they might generally be less severe. As such, there are different ways of defining "dangerous" in sports. To get an idea of how sports impact life insurance premiums, you might look at
- The rate of hospitalisations that result from different sports.
- The types of injuries that occur from a sport and how these will affect your ability to work.
The nature of the injury has a significant effect on how likely it is to result in you needing to make an income protection claim. Injuries that heal more quickly or tend not to result in disability will generally not lead to income protection claims, while those that do not affect your ability to work are generally not claimable either
The rate of injuries for sports in Australia
|Type of sport||%||Total number of cases in 2011-2012|
|Australian rules football||8.8||3,186|
|Football, other and unspecified||7.8||2,821|
|Wheeled motor sports||7.6||2,737|
|Ice and snow sports||3.1||1,114|
|Walking and running||2.4||878|
|Adventure and extreme sports||0.9||335|
|Gymnastics and trampolining||0.3||121|
|Other and unspecified sports||10.1||3,678|
Source: Australian sports injury hospitalisations 2011–12 report, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
The most common type of injury in sports
In a 12 month period fro 2011 to 2012, knee and lower leg injuries were the most common type of injury for most sports, with fractures generally being the most common. In the case of Rugby Union, skull fractures as a result of contact with another player were the most common cause of hospitalisation. Depending on your occupation, different types of injury will have different impacts on your ability to work. It can be worth considering this. For example, if your job specifically requires walking or running then knee or leg injuries may be a significant risk.
|Body region||%||Total number of cases in 2011-2012|
|Knee and lower leg||23||4,152|
|Elbow and forearm||20||3,588|
|Wrist and hand||20||3,544|
|Shoulder and upper arm||11||1,883|
|Hip and thigh||3||597|
|Ankle and foot||3||486|
|Other and unspecified||0||1|
Source: Australian sports injury hospitalisations 2011–12 report, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
Amateur vs professional sports
The following table a sample of the special acceptance terms that may be required for different sports. Rugby league, rugby union, Aussie rules, soccer and touch football will be used as points of reference.
|Insurance Provider||Football - Rugby League, Rugby Union, Aussie Rules/AFL (Amateur)||Football - Rugby League, Rugby Union, Aussie Rules/AFL (Semi-Professional)|
|Cover may be offered based on your individual case|
Acceptance term - 25% premium loading or 90 day exclusion period.
|Insurance Provider||Soccer (Amateur)||Soccer (Semi-Professional)|
Acceptance term - 30 day extended waiting period (recreational only), or 25% premium loading or 90 day extended waiting period (recreational with participation in competition)
|Limited cover may be considered|
|Cover may be offered with additional loading|
Please note that this information is not indicative of an actual policy and is to be used as a rough guide. It's a good idea to get in touch with your insurer for specific details.
What are my income protection insurance options as a professional athlete?
A professional sportsperson is someone who supports themselves or their family primarily by playing sports, or otherwise makes most of their income from playing sports.
Cover from your sporting institution
Your sporting institution will often have some form of insurance cover, but this may not include full income protection benefits for you.
While standard income protection insurance policies might not cover you in the event of sports injuries. Here, specialist insurers might be able to offer cover where standard providers will not. Your cover can take the form of a personal accident policy, or a general combined life insurance policy that's specially tailored for professional athletes.
Standard income protection (with limitations and exclusions).
Most Australian insurance providers do not offer income protection cover for professional football players or professional sports players of any kind. However, a small number of providers may consider application for cover on an individual basis. It may be best to obtain more information from your sporting association and find out whether they have a national insurance scheme agreement in place that provides cover in case of an injury.
Securing an income protection plan to cover extreme sports
If you participate in sports that are considered to be hazardous, specific terms (loading or exclusion) may be applied to your policy or in some circumstances, your application for income protection cover may be denied altogether. The terms and conditions may also vary depending on whether your engagement in this sport is purely recreational or on a competitive basis. Some sporting activities that may be considered as high-risk include:
- Deep sea or rock fishing
- Motor/power boat/jet ski racing
- Motor sport racing - car and motorcycle
- NASCAR racing
- Off-road riding
- Trail bike riding
- Road racing
- Mountain climbing
Do I have to tell my insurance provider about my sporting activities?
Yes, and it is crucial that you provide information to your insurance provide if you are playing a sport of any kind, either on a recreational or competitive basis. Almost all income protection application forms specifically ask on whether or not you currently participate or intend to participate in any sports, including those that are considered to be hazardous.
Weekend rugby: Income protection vs sports coverJames was an executive who played rugby union every weekend, and tried to get to training sessions at least once a week when he could. He wasn't a professional by any means, but still played fairly competitively and had seen a couple of broken bones on the field in his time. Looking at income protection insurance policies, he was surprised at the difference playing rugby made to his premiums. He wasn't willing to give up rugby, but wasn't keen on paying that much for insurance either. He didn't want to exclude sports cover from his income protection policy either, because he wanted to be able to play with full confidence. As such he started looking into whether his club membership included any insurance in the cost of registration. It did, and in fact offered a personal accident policy that included benefits such as:
- Cover of non-Medicare expenses
- Lump sum benefits in the event of death or serious injury
- Weekly income protection
It covered him on during matches, as well as while training and travelling to or from matches and training. The only catch was that the income protection benefits through his club insurance had a limit of $300 per week. This was significantly less than the 75% of his income he would have been able to claim through a standalone income protection insurance policy. James did some more digging, and eventually found an insurer that let him take out his own personal accident sports insurance policy. It delivered similar benefits to his club cover, but instead offered a much higher income protection limit, of a full 75% of his typical earnings.
Conditions of your policy
Applicants that participate in sports that are considered to carry a certain degree of risk may be offered income protection cover with specific terms and conditions in place. The terms and conditions offered may vary depending on:
- The type of sport that you participate in
- Your age
- Frequency of your sporting activities
- Your level of involvement - recreational, competitive or semi-pro
- Other qualifying factors, such as depth, height, distance and speed, with some sports
It is important to have a clear understanding of any special terms that may be offered by your insurance provider in relation to your sporting activities, as this effects whether or not you can claim. If you provide inaccurate information, you are breaching your duty of disclosure and your provider may cancel your policy.
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