Sporting types advised to take cover

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The Independent Online
SPORTS enthusiasts and others who enjoy risky leisure activities should cover themselves against injury, warns the Association of British Insurers.

'You don't have to compete at the highest level to run the risk of being injured or causing injury to someone else,' said Tony Baker, deputy director-general of the ABI.

According to figures produced by the association, there are 29 million sports injuries each year, costing pounds 405m in lost productivity. Leisure and sporting activities that cause the most deaths are water and motor sports, horse-riding, air sports such as hang-gliding, and athletics. But the sport with most injuries is football - only road accidents cause more personal injuries.

Whether a sports injury will be treated free on the National Health Service depends on the severity of the damage, but may also be affected by where the victim lives.

A number of NHS hospitals have now set up clinics to treat people on a self-referral basis, charging slightly less than independent physiotherapists.

The Department of Health says that all emergencies should be treated free. But if people who are not ill want treatment in order to feel better, they should expect to pay for it, according to a spokeswoman.

Falkirk Royal Infirmary caused controversy earlier this year when it set up a sports injury clinic, charging pounds 16 for an initial visit and pounds 14 for subsequent treatment.

Sports injury clinics treat such problems as pulled hamstrings and ligament strains. They will not take on chronic injuries, like long-standing back or neck problems. It continues to be a decision for the GP, consultant or casualty department, on the advice of the district health authority, whether to refer a patient for free treatment.

Several insurers offer a wide range of policies for injuries sustained through sports and leisure activities. But few offer comprehensive policies.

The most common policies are sold to clubs or associations for the benefit of all their players or members. Some household policies may be extended to cover third-party injury and loss of equipment. There are also a number of insurers who specialise in cover for particular sports. For example, Hamilton & Wellard offers policies only to golfers.

Amsport offers the widest range of policies. You can obtain cover under one policy for all sporting and leisure activities.

Three standards of cover, are offered, called gold, silver and bronze and assessed for three categories of risk. Gold policies include cover of pounds 100 weekly for loss of earnings, pounds 30 daily for hospital care, up to pounds 300 for physiotherapy, up to pounds 75,000 for disability, and pounds 37,500 paid to the insured's estate in the event of death.

A bronze policy from Amsport pays out pounds 50 per week for loss of earnings, pounds 20 per day for the hospital, up to pounds 150 for physiotherapy, up to pounds 35,000 for disability, and pounds 17,500 for death.

Rugby players and skiers are deemed high risk, cyclists and ramblers intermediate risk, and tennis players and outdoor cricketers low risk. A gold policy for a high-risk competitor costs pounds 124 per year, whereas a bronze policy for low-risk activities costs pounds 30 annually.

Amsport 071-895 9950.