‘First Round Draft’ Insurance Policy Winning Over Students, Parents

April 22, 2005

One of the top collegiate football players in the country blows out a knee in his final game before hoping to go professional. For some star college athletes and their families, this scenario is a legitimate worry.

With the National Football League draft set for Saturday, April 23, Insurance Journal recently spoke with Keith Lerner of Florida-based Total Planning Sports Services. A Chartered Life Underwriter and Chartered Financial Consultant, Lerner specializes in providing insurance policies to college athletes who plan to go on to play professional sports, a market he has been serving for 17 years. Lerner talked about coverages available for collegiate athletes, the risks of not being insured, which sports are the most injury-prone, and more.

IJ: What are some of the changes you have seen in the 17 years in this line of work?

Lerner: The changes are really the amounts of insurance, the level of knowledge for the student-athletes, the parents, as well as the administrators of the school. When it first started, it was a player here or a player there, no one had really heard much about it. Now I get calls in my office from parents and players who are interested in getting a policy. I would venture to say that there is probably nobody picked in the NFL or National Basketball Association draft that doesn’t have this protection in college.

IJ: Did the Willis McGahee situation (former University of Miami-Florida running back who went down with a major knee injury in the 2003 National Championship game) bring a little bit more light to the situation?

Lerner: There is no question there was a lot of notoriety for the insurance policy and the industry in that case, but there had been some other pretty high-profile cases out there. The sheer numbers of dollars that these professional athletes stand to lose if they get injured in college are just going up astronomically.

IJ: Do we see more college players going pro earlier than in previous years because injuries could really set back their career?

Lerner: There is no question about that. I’ve talked to some college players that have said if they could have gone right after high school to the professional ranks for football, they would have We see that in basketball. One of the major concerns is that if you get hurt while in college, you really have nothing to fall back on.

IJ: Are college athletes worried about their reputations coming out of college if they get injured during their playing days and might be “damaged” goods at the next level?

Lerner: Absolutely. If a player gets hurt prior to the draft or the season before the draft, there is question in the scouts’ minds whether that player has had a full recovery. That’s what makes the Willis (McGahee) case so interesting. He had a severe knee injury and most of the times, doctors can say with modern medical technology these days, 90 percent of the time you’re going to be able to come back, but there is always that other 10 percent. That’s what we’re dealing with when it comes to these insurance policies – the 10 percent of those athletes that can’t come back from an injury. If you’re in that small percentile that aren’t going to recover, the insurance policy gives you the financial security to fall back on.

IJ: Do other health-related factors come into this market?

Editor’s note: For the full interview, see the April 18 issue of Insurance Journal, Page N10. For more information on Total Planning Sports Services, write: Keith Lerner, PO Box 147050, Gainesville, Fla. 32614-7050, call (352) 373-3000, or e-mail total_planning@hotmail.com.

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