Written by SportsDayDFW.com
SportsDayHS special report: Are your high school's athletes covered when on-field injuries occur?
Catastrophic care insurance offers a safety net for students who suffer life-altering accidents or illness while participating in an extra-curricular school activity, with policies providing as much as $7.5 million of coverage in cases such as spinal cord injuries, brain injury, infection or stroke. But coverage is not mandatory in Texas, nor is it officially recommended by the state’s public school extracurricular governing body, the University Interscholastic League.
A Dallas Morning News survey of 65 of the largest school districts in the Dallas-Fort Worth area found five that don’t provide any catastrophic care coverage: Birdville, Burleson, Cedar Hill, Mansfield and Richardson ISDs.
While some states require that schools or student athletes carry insurance, even providing it in some cases, Texas, which has a level of uninsured 1.5 to 2 times the national average, does not.
“I find it a little odd [schools] don’t carry it,” said Ryan Looney, a former Midlothian football player who suffered a serious spinal injury during a JV game in 2006.
“You look at the sport of football in Texas: It’s life,” he said. “These kids live and breathe it. You look at the impact it has on schools in general, the amount of money it brings in — from boosters to people attending games on Thursday and Friday nights — it’s bizarre to think that you can’t cover these kids that are playing a sport that has come to light to be very dangerous, whether it’s concussions or injuries like mine.
“Why not have that added protection for your students? It’s not a guarantee that it’s going to help them or that they’ll ever use it, but it’s better than nothing.”
Over the course of the high school football season, SportsDayHS writers Corbett Smith, David Just and Kyle Fredrickson began to search for coverage plans at dozens of school districts covering hundreds of thousands of students in and around the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Their discoveries of five nearby districts without catastrophic coverage helped them craft a three-part series showing the intricacies of insurance coverage for high school athletes.