Can you take a break?

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MILLIONS of people who regularly play sport in Britain will have read with interest the details of footballer Paul Gascoigne's new leg injury.

Lachrymose or not, Gazza will undoubtedly receive the best medical treatment money can buy to help heal his double fracture of the tibia and fibula. His basic wages will continue to be paid until he recovers, but he loses his bonuses.

Every year, 19 million sports injuries are reported to GPs or hospital emergency departments - a quarter of them caused by football.

For most people, the only way to soften the blow of injuries such as those suffered by Gazza is have some form of insurance cover.

Roddy Kohn, a Bristol- based financial adviser, said: 'The first step is to check whether you are covered by a work scheme. Many employers do have group medical insurance schemes for their staff. You can then receive non-NHS treatment if necessary.

'It might even include rehabilitation at a sports injury clinic. The problem comes where - even if it exists - employers have a clause in their policies that excludes certain sports, or even sports deemed to be dangerous. In this case, private cover is needed.'

Bupa does not have a specific sports injury policy. But its BupaCare scheme, costing between pounds 32 and pounds 67 a month for a single person, aged 30, gives cover for any in-patient hospital treatment. This includes X- rays, surgery and hospital stays. BupaCare policies also provide limited out-patient treatment, such as physiotherapy up to pounds 550 a year for the more expensive cover. Sports clubs can obtain cover for individual members at a 15 per cent discount.

Another route is to insure the entire team rather than the individual. IGI Insurance, based in Nottingham, provides this service for most team sports. Its most popular cover is for football clubs.

Michelle Bennett, an underwriter at IGI Insurance, said: 'We price the cover for a club in units of pounds 100, which means they can choose exactly how much they spend. The cover is for an amateur team of up to 20 players. Each pounds 100 will buy pounds 1,000 compensation for death, loss of eye or limb, or total disablement. Benefit of up to pounds 10 per unit per week for a total of 104 weeks is also paid to those in gainful employment.'

Although the amount paid is not generous, in soccer there are roughly three individual claims per season for every four policies. Rugby, which is three times as risky, costs pounds 165 per unit of cover. Hockey comes in at about pounds 80, with cricket costing pounds 30.

Another company, Amsport, has launched the Gameplan policy against sporting injury. It covers 101 different sports, including aerobics, tennis, golf, squash, ice hockey and martial arts.

Cover starts from pounds 24 a year for low-risk sports, up to a maximum of pounds 124 for high-risk activities such as American football. It includes weekly benefits of up to pounds 100 a week, plus hospital benefits of up to pounds 30 a day, dental fees of up to pounds 275, plus physiotherapy costing up to pounds 300.

Those permanently disabled receive up to pounds 75,000 and pounds 37,500 is paid on accidental death. Finally, liability insurance of up to pounds 1m is included.

IGI Insurance: 0602 411022. Amsport: 071-283 2000. Bupa: 0800 600500

(Photograph omitted)