WIAA board approves concussion insurance for student athletes

WIAA board approves concussion insurance for student athletes

With the number of diagnosed concussions on the rise around Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association is taking steps to ensure those affected have access to treatment.

The Board of Control unanimously approved a statewide concussion insurance policy Tuesday, providing 80,000 junior high and high school student athletes free coverage if they were to get a concussion.

“Anything we can do to increase access to care for athletes for any injury is important,” said Dr. Drew Watson, assistant professor with UW-Health Department of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation.

Wisconsin health experts say the access is especially critical for concussion accidents.

“Research sort of substantiates they’ve probably doubled in the last decade or so,” Watson said.

Even with the number of injuries up, athletes don’t always get diagnosed.

“Whether that’s because they’re not aware of the symptoms that can come along with it or they don’t have access to health care professionals who are more equipped to diagnose it,” Watson said.

The new program approved by the WIAA is called, HeadStrong Concussion Insurance. Its purpose is to get more students diagnosed so they can be properly treated.

“The hope is that if the athletes who don’t have insurance or who worry that the co-pays or deductibles with their primary insurance would prevent them from seeking care, this would allow them to do so without having to worry about the financial burden that can come along with it,” Watson said.

Board of Control President Pam Foegen said they hope it puts parents’ minds at ease.

“For families, this is one more level of comfort when a child receives a concussion. That can be devastating for a family,” Foegen said.

Verona Area High School football coach Dave Richardson said he’s seen parents’ concerns first hand.

“There are families that we have that would hesitate to take a kid into the emergency room to get a diagnosis because of the deductible,” Richardson said.

He said the number of concussions is down on his team, thanks to new procedures and education, but stresses concussions are serious and should be dealt with as soon as possible.

“Get it diagnosed and let it heal, because after you have the first one, then you know you’re more susceptible to a second and third,” Richardson said.

He hopes the new program will encourage more treatments, and eventually, less injuries.

“This just kind of is the icing on the cake that the WIAA is protecting all of its athletes,” Richardson said.

The new program will take affect Aug. 1.