The Pittsburgh Steelers and New Orleans Saints play the first preseason game of the 2007 NFL season on Aug. 5. The Hall of Fame Game marks the start of each team's quest for the Super Bowl, and every player's attempt to survive the season unscathed. Wrenched knees, snapped bones, 21st concussions--pads only protect against so much.
Disability insurance might not prevent career-ending injuries, but a policy could protect players for life afterward. Better yet, it could protect a star's multimillion-dollar payday.
Says Jerome J. Kovach, a senior vice president out of broker Marsh Inc.'s New York office, superstars usually come to him for coverage right after they sign a huge veteran contract.
"You're talking about guys that have significant contracts. You're not going to get a rookie," said Kovach. These policies tend to only be cost-effective for big names. "The problem with the football players is that the pricing is much more expensive because it's a contact sport," he said.
Underwriters--usually Lloyd's but sometimes the Ace Group--delve into past injuries, past substance abuse, and other health and lifestyle issues, he said. They can design policies as basic principal-sum insured to pay the remainder of a contract. They can manuscript them. But policies have one overall rule--they kick in only when a player is permanently disabled.
Most NFL player contracts, unlike those in baseball and basketball, are not guaranteed. If a player gets hurt, his team can cut him to free salary-cap room. Guaranteed signing bonuses give players some security, and the NFL Players Association offers disability benefits. But the former might not last a lifetime, and the latter only ran in the tens of thousands of dollars per player last year (and was the subject of a congressional investigation in June).
Big-money stars need added security. Kovach cannot name names of clients because of confidentiality agreements.
"I can tell you there are significant players. I'm sure, if you name a few, we've done a few," said Kovach.
READ MORE: Features | Special Reports | Industry Risk Reports | Columnists | In-Depth Series
August 1, 2007
Copyright 2007© LRP Publications