University Business October 2019 - 48

PROFESSIONAL OPINION

4 ways to put student-athlete safety first
Reviewing delivery of care, having adequate insurance coverage, and keeping up
with association guidelines help higher ed leaders mitigate risk
By Andrew Massey

D

espite abundant safety precautions and guidelines for intercollegiate athletic programs,
there is still risk. In recent years, there
has been an uptick in sports-related
injuries and deaths linked to conditioning activities in which athletic personnel
failed to follow proper guidelines for
sports training and competition.
It's important for university officials
to review programs and safety precautions to help reduce risk and protect
student-athletes. Here are four key areas
that athletic program leaders should address when working to implement and
maintain safety-centered cultures.
1. Review all care
To establish a safety-centered culture,
leaders of athletic programs should
ensure that every aspect of the care delivered to students is reviewed-from evaluating adherence to necessary guidelines
to analyzing whether all programming
and activities prioritize the protection of
athletes. These risk-mitigating internal
mechanisms should be transparent and
conducted at least annually.
University leaders should also develop
independent review groups to regularly
evaluate their athletic programs from a
health and safety perspective.
2. Ensure care is independent
It is imperative that university athletic
programs have a model of care that al-

UBmag.me/athletes
48 | October 2019

University leaders should
develop independent
review groups to regularly
evaluate their athletic
programs from a health
and safety perspective.
lows team physicians, athletic trainers
and other primary athletic health care
providers to make independent decisions related to the health and safety of
student-athletes; they must also deliver
health care to athletes that is free from
outside, nonmedical influences.
In an ideal setting, the model would
include an administrative and reporting
structure that preserves autonomy and
further increases the chance that the best
interests of student-athletes are put first.
3. Get the right level of insurance
Intercollegiate athletic insurance protects universities and student-athletes.
A school should have a coverage plan
that meets unique campus needs and fits
with the insurance requirements of national organizations such as the NCAA,
National Association of Intercollegiate
Athletics and National Junior College
Athletic Association. University athletic
program leaders should work with their
insurance consultants to find coverage
solutions that help to mitigate risk, contain costs and reduce the administrative
burden on staff.
It's important to note that most
athletics-related claim payments go
through student-athletes' primary insur-

ance first, and some student-athletes
may be underinsured or uninsured. Low
or limited benefit levels can influence
the level of care students receive (as well
as negatively impact your institution's
basic athletic insurance premiums), so
consider using an insurance verification
service to help keep student-athletes safe
by ensuring they have primary medical
insurance that meets their needs.
4. Stay current
All university leaders should keep in
mind that governing bodies and associations continuously update their legislation, guidelines and effective practices.
Someone in the athletic program-the
designated health care administrator
for NCAA schools-should be responsible for monitoring association updates
to help prevent future sports-related
incidents.
No matter what precautions are put
into place, there is always a chance that
something will go wrong. However, university leaders can significantly reduce
risk by reviewing their programs and
keeping the health and wellness of their
student-athletes at the center of everything they do.

Andrew Massey's career in intercollegiate
athletics spans three decades. He has served as
director of athletic training at Tulane University in New Orleans, head athletic trainer
at Appalachian State University in North
Carolina, and head athletic trainer at Wofford College in South Carolina. He is now an
athletics risk consultant for Relation Insurance
and serves as an independent certified athletic
trainer for the NFL.
UniversityBusiness.com


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University Business October 2019

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