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NCAA catastrophic injury coverage enhanced

Available funds increase for accessibility modifications

The NCAA catastrophic injury insurance program benefits have been enhanced for student-athletes who have suffered severe athletics-related injuries and become disabled as a result.

Recently, NCAA staff consulted with student-athletes who have suffered catastrophic injuries and who rely on the benefits provided by this coverage. Their input was used to craft modifications to the policy, which will be available to athletes who have been covered under the catastrophic injury insurance program since August 1998.

To account for rising costs of items needed to accommodate someone with a physical disability – such as modifications to a home or vehicle to make them wheelchair accessible – the policy’s maximum benefit for expenses like those has increased. The policy now covers $175,000 of the cost to accommodate a physical disability through the first 10 years after injury, up from a $125,000 limit in the old policy. It covers $70,000 in the subsequent decade, up from $50,000. Similar decade-by-decade increases have been added through the duration of the policy, which covers student-athletes through their entire lives.   

These new limits are applicable to any future expenses for any student-athlete who suffered a catastrophic injury since the 1998-99 academic year. The enhanced coverage came at a cost of more than $2 million to the NCAA.

Chris Norton, who suffered a severe spinal cord injury during a Luther College football game in 2010, offered input to the NCAA as it worked to revise its coverage plan. He plans on using the additional funds to purchase a vehicle with modifications that enable him to drive on his own, which could cost more than $100,000.  

“These funds will significantly improve my independence,” Norton said. “It’s been almost six years since I last drove. I am thankful to the NCAA that they have this policy in place to support injured athletes like myself, and I am appreciative that they were willing to listen and make the necessary improvements to the policy.”

The catastrophic injury insurance program is designed to provide lifelong coverage to student-athletes who suffer severe injuries and whose medical bills are expected to exceed $90,000. The costs up to $90,000 are covered by a student-athlete’s – or parents’ – personal insurance policy or by an accident policy carried by their school.

Click here to learn more about the NCAA catastrophic injury insurance program and other insurance programs available to student-athletes.