Professional winter sports athletes left behind by insurance

In November 2021, Bobsleigh Brad – Britain’s number one four-person bobsleigh team – tackled Germany’s DKB Eiskanal Altenberg bobsleigh, luge and skeleton track as part of their pre-season training. season.

As we tackled the track’s 17 technical curves, it soon became apparent why bobsleigh athletes must sign a liability waiver when obtaining their gliding license.

During the practice run, the team’s bobsleigh – which was hurtling down the course at 75 mph – collided violently in the 13th corner of the track.

Addressed exclusively to insurance timeBobsleigh Brad team member Greg Cackett described the event: “My neck cracked and my ears started ringing.

“We rode Turn 13 upside down [and] barrel pulled out – that’s when I smashed my head on the floor.

The bobsledder explained that this “Alten smash” was aggravated because typically after an accident, track workers would grab and hold the bobsled to avoid further injury. However, in Germany, athletes must stop naturally on the course.

After the accident, Cackett was left with shoulder pain that lasted about eight months.

To add insult to injury, the insurance industry is apparently not in favor of covering these types of winter sports risks.

David Mayor, a member of the Forum of Insurance Lawyers (Foil) Sports Industry Team and Forbes Solicitors partner, explained that “sports teams face high premium or no insurance”.

He continued: “Winter sports often carry a high risk of serious [and] Dear [injuries which] are not covered by standard travel policies and stand-alone coverage excludes any competition.

Is insurance failing athletes?

For anyone who hasn’t seen the classic 1993 film Cool races, bobsleigh is a winter racing sport that involves timed descents on narrow, winding tracks covered in concrete or stone. Gravity-fed bobsleds are made of steel, fiberglass, or carbon fiber.

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According to the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF), bobsleigh speeds can reach up to 150 km/h (93 mph), with athletes facing three times the normal gravitational force.

Bobsled driver Bradley Hall confirmed the mayor’s view that winter sports cover is hard to buy.

In the summer of 2021, Hall said he reached out to “all the big insurers and some smaller ones” to get the right insurance, but it was “really hard to get people to support us.”

For Hall, having insurance as a bobsled athlete is vital because the sport is about “taking calculated risks” – that means accidents are, unfortunately, inevitable.

“If we don’t take the risk of increasing our speed, someone else will,” he explained.

Cackett agreed: “You have to accept that there is a degree of risk in sport and do your best.”

Besides neck and shoulder pain, like what Cackett suffered in 2021, other common bobsled injuries include broken ankles or feet, broken ribs due to increased pressure around corners, broken collarbones, severed tendons in the hand or tearing of a muscle. Concussions and resulting dementia are also a risk.

Hall and Cackett believe that worrying about these risks can embarrass bobsledders, potentially affecting their performance.

The mayor added that aside from injuries, there are also other risks that athletes and clubs should consider covering.

He said: “Winter competition typically involves fewer team events and a reduced likelihood of incurring third party liability, leaving most of the risk of loss to the individual competitor.

“However, liabilities can arise even in the most innocuous and often non-competitive circumstances – equipment left in the aisles, not properly maintaining equipment.

“Clubs can also become inadvertently liable for the actions of their competing athletes, given the ever-expanding rules on vicarious liability.

“It is imperative that clubs seek professional advice to minimize their potential exposure.”

Protection gap

For insurance to improve for athletes, Hall said “one of the most helpful things” would be “to find a cheaper solution, especially with our budget.”

He cited usage-based medical insurance as an example.

Cackett, meanwhile, suggested a specially tailored brokerage service could work well, where advisers can speak with athletes about car insurance, for example.

He explained: “With Team GB, we offer you certain things where [it] could help you do things in life – a mortgage consultant could come and you can talk to [them] and they will advise athletes on how they can obtain mortgages. This kind of service [around insurance] could be really good.

Assisting with the career transition of athletes is another way for insurance intermediaries to “think outside the box”, especially if there are attractive career opportunities where athletes could be taken advantage of. [and] given a post-sports career,” Cackett continued.

One example is Jack Clifford, a former England and Harlequins rugby union player. A series of shoulder injuries forced him to retire from professional sports in 2020, so he claimed his career-ending injury insurance policy, which was brokered by Gallagher. He now works for the broker as business development manager.

Cackett added that mental health support, such as talking therapies included in a comprehensive insurance package, would also be a “huge” benefit for athletes.

“If there is [are] shortcomings [where] insurance companies [can] getting involved with teams like us and athletes in the sports fraternity is [around] things like medical insurance, potentially for concussions and ongoing brain injury support. In a less serious sense, it would be [purchasing] equipment, which is expensive,” continued Cackett.


Bradley Hall and Greg Cackett - GB bobsled

What is Bobsleigh Brad?

The British bobsleigh team, named Bobsleigh Brad, is made up of pilot Brad Hall and brakemen Greg Cackett, Nick Gleeson, Sam Blanchet, Taylor Lawrence and Luke Dawes.

At the Beijing Winter Olympics in February 2022, Hall, Cackett, Gleeson and Lawrence represented Great Britain.

Does Bobsleigh Brad have a sponsorship?

Financial services consultancy Altus is one of Bobsleigh Brad’s sponsors.

Kevin Okell, CEO of Altus, said insurance time“When Cackett and Hall first spoke to us, we couldn’t help but be impressed with their passion and commitment to success.

“Altus has always been proud of our connection to Bath and the local community. From the earliest days of the business, we have supported local youth sport and enjoyed watching individuals and teams grow and develop.

What insurance is currently available for bobsleigh athletes?

SportsCover Direct, underwritten by Axa XL, offers travel, sports accident, medical expenses and repatriation insurance.

InsureandGo, owned by AllClear Insurance, also offers some coverage in this area.

Allianz Partners, meanwhile, has travel policies that will cover recreational bobsledding for an additional premium. The insurer, however, specifies that it “will never cover this activity on a competitive basis”.

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