Insurers to demand an off-season?

Players may be happy to skip an off-season, instead chasing cash in Japan, but TANK LANNING, writing for Sport24, suggests that it cannot be too long before player insurers start demanding one.

Tank Lanning

One has to wonder how the broker who negotiated Handre Pollard’s insurance contract is feeling right now!

Sure there are actuarial numbers, bell curves and medians to blame, but the bottom line is that the person who brokered the deal must have come close to putting their employers out of business!

Imagine having to pick up Pollard’s SARU and Bulls salary for the next 9 to 12 months?

The injury happened during a freak training accident involving no contact, but what if Pollard had picked up the injury while playing in Japan, and then further exacerbated it while training in Pretoria?

Which set of insurers would have picked up his salary bill?

And perhaps more importantly, which doctor makes the call as to the origination of the injury?

That Hippocratic Oath is all good and well until a club salary gets in the way …

Which is why France’s professional rugby players have demanded independent doctors be employed by the union rather than their clubs. This because players fears their health and careers are being put at risk. And because insurance companies have started reviewing the base of compensation paid out while a player is injured.

In a sport where salary caps get treated with disdain, and seasons are extending like tapeworms, players are worried about club doctors sometimes bowing to the hierarchy.

“Agh, he will be fine coach, it’s just a sprain” says the doc – knowing full well what the coach wants to hear about his star player. But who is to blame when it turns into a ligament rupture in minute one of the game and the player’s career is suddenly in the balance?

According to Montpellier lock Robins Tchale-Watchou, also president of the French Professional Players’ Union, Provale, the number of players who have lost their professional rugby licence because of injury has almost tripled in eight years.

Hence Provale looking for a panel of independent doctors – not paid for by the clubs – to judge the seriousness of injuries and the duration for which players will be side-lined.

They are proposing a list of referring physicians who specialise in specific injuries that players can go to, to get a second opinion.

At a time when players are opting out of off-seasons, instead enjoying a little payment top-ups in Japan, it seems not only an obvious option, but one that insurers might start to demand.

With that will come higher monthly premiums for players, but perhaps unlikely to put much of a dent in the monopoly money being earned these days.

Who would pay for the independent panel of doctors? Insurers might be happy to chip in for a service like this. And governing bodies could levy a participation fee on all clubs or countries participating in the specific league or tournament they oversee.

Sadly, a high profile court case might be the only way to set a precedent.

But like our Discovery medical aid has exclusions like paragliding and kite surfing, how far away are we from insurers of players making an off season compulsory?

This column first appeared on Sport24

2 Comments

  1. Hi Tank

    Thanks for the insightful piece. This is a side of sports not many citizen knows about or understand.

    I want to pull a parallel to cricket, where AB has hinted he will scale down on his national duties because he plays to much money making T20 abroad. Its the same with the other guys the money and pressure is so big in the off season that they come back burnt out or injured, the result being the test series loss on home ground.

  2. Nice parallel. And true. Thing is, the SA franchises are to poep-scared to say cheers and not offer the guys getting top up cash in Japan a contract. instead they offer them the contract, at top dollar, and get half the player they thought they were contracting

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