Amid all the controversy about concussions and their potential impact on the sports of football, especially youth football, one insurance executive has rejected that speculation, noting the increased awareness of concussions “is not likely to shut down the liability insurance markets for youth football organizations.”
In an article entitled “End of Youth Football – Not so Fast,” John Sadler of Sadler Sports Insurance explains why youth football is different than college and the pros.
The article was made in response to a controversial blog entitled “What Would the End of Football Look like?” on Grantland.com — http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/7559458/cte-concussion-crisis-economic-look-end-football. The Grantland.com blog laid out a doomsday scenario for all levels of football (youth, high school, college, and pro) whereby concussion lawsuits resulting in huge payouts would force football liability insurance carriers out of the marketplace resulting in the abandonment of football due to the risks of going uninsured. However, Sadler says that scenario is not likely to materialize, especially for youth football, for many reasons.
Sadler wrote that “there are many reasons why you can’t lump youth football with college or pro football in terms of risks associated with concussions or CTE. According to our knowledge base and injury statistics from our youth football insurance clients, the risk profile of the youth football player is vastly different and can be addressed with existing risk management techniques As a result, we don’t expect to see a large impact on the youth tackle football marketplace.”
The risks of these brain injury situations and the required protective responses need to be studied differently in the context of youth football, high school, college, and pros, according to Sadler.
“The level of aggression, speed, and strength of the players increases tremendously from youth football to high school football as does the concussion risk. Also, the number of cumulative helmet to helmet hits and other head impacts increases significantly after high school football. The cumulative impacts over a college career are more than double those over a high school career and the number of impacts for pro players are significantly higher even though the NFL has recently changed practice rules to limit helmet to helmet contact. Other complicating factors that may result in additional brain damage and in higher suicide rates in the NFL are the past use of steroids, other drug additions, and unstable lifestyles.
“As regards youth tackle football and high school football, the two primary areas of concern are from the initial concussion and second impact syndrome concussions but not from CTE. Any concussion lawsuit against a youth football organization or high school would be negligence based. However, if the youth football organization or high school are following the safety standards set by state concussion statutes (if any) and by their governing bodies, there is little risk of being found negligence but there will likely be significant legal defense costs. As regards lawsuits arising from CTE, youth football and high school programs have little exposure due to the relatively small number of exposures as compared to college and pro football. Furthermore, the existence of CTE can be expensive and difficult to prove.