Navigating the derby insurance maze

The amount of roller derby enthusiasts has grown steadily in Finland but the sport does not have a long history yet. That is exactly how insurance companies see the sport, too. Insurance prices range from 50 euros up to hundreds of euros a year. There are also several coverage issues.

During the past year derby insurances have been a topic for discussion both among the skaters and in media. In February, Helsingin Uutiset was the first newspaper to address the issue by publishing an article about the possible reasons for the high prices of insurances for derby and other “high-risk” sports.

In October, the Finnish radio channel YleX interviewed Riitta-Liisa Salonen, Head of Personal Insurance at the insurance company If and Päivi Vuorenmaa, Product Manager at the insurance company LähiTapiola. If does not offer roller derby insurances at all.

Riitta-Liisa Salonen says in the interview that in a fast-paced contact sport such as roller derby where the action happens on wheels and in a tight pack of people, there is a great risk of injury. “Typical injuries include sprained or twisted knees, ankles, elbows or shoulders and the treatment of such injuries is relatively challenging”, Salonen says. However, the attitude towards ice hockey for instance is quite different. According to Salonen, the reason is that ice hockey already has a long history as a sport. “We have the statistics of different injuries from a long period of time so we can clearly see what the development has been like”, Salonen says. The fact that roller derby is a fairly new sport is a major factor, Salonen notes. “It takes some time to see how the sport develops in the long run”, she concludes.

LähiTapiola, on the other hand, does offer insurances for roller derby. “At the moment a personal accident insurance covers roller derby injuries if the person does not take part in or prepare for competitive events. For those who do take part in competitions, a separate sports insurance is needed”, says Päivi Vuorenmaa in the interview.

Cheapest insurance for less than 50 euros
In autumn 2013, Roller Derby Finland surveyed people involved in roller derby about insurances and accidents requiring medical treatment during the years 2009-2013. Altogether 164 responses were collected, accounting for around 27-30 per cent of the Finnish skaters. The survey will be retaken in 2014 in the hopes of obtaining a more complete picture of the situation.

The vast majority of the respondents had acquired their insurance during 2012 or 2013, a time when the insurance companies started to classify roller derby as a high-risk sport. Of the 94 respondents who had an accident or a sports insurance, around 10 stated that their insurance policy does not cover roller derby practices or competitions. The most popular insurance company was LähiTapiola (40 respondents) and the second popular was Fennia (21 respondents).

In LähiTapiola, the customer can opt for a full-time accident insurance which covers roller derby injuries and costs around 25 to 45 euros per year. A sports insurance can be customized to meet the needs of the customer by adjusting the maximum amount of medical expenses the insurance will cover or by including physiological treatment in the coverage, for instance. The cheapest insurances cost 110,17 euros a year and the most expensive insurances stand at 700 euros. The average price is 309,48 euros.

In Fennia, the cheapest price per year was 47,12 euros and the cheapest insurances were usually part of the Fennia Magis youth insurance package. The highest price in Fennia was 250 euros which included home insurance and accident insurance with a sports coverage. In this case, the accident insurance covered training and competitions both in Finland and abroad. The average price was 113,56 euros.

Reasons to read the fine print
Depending on the company, a customer’s personal insurance history and the time of acquiring the insurance, the coverage of different insurance policies varied significantly. The results from the survey show that to avoid surprises it is advisable to make sure that you know what exactly your insurance covers. A basic accident insurance does not cover injuries that occur in roller derby practices or competitions in any insurance company. In addition, a limited sports coverage is often not enough to keep you covered on the track.

If you have all your insurances in one insurance company and have not had major insurance claims, it is a good idea to ask your insurance provider to add roller derby in your insurance policy. It is also important to keep in mind that most insurance policies include a deductible, the amount the customer must pay out of their pocket before the insurance provider starts reimbursing the expenses.

70 respondents stated that they did not have any kind of accident or sports insurance. Typical reasons for not having an insurance included financial issues and the difficulty of comparing different insurance providers, among other things. The respondents were able to choose multiple reasons, and the result was that 34 respondents said that acquiring an insurance was just something that they hadn’t got around to do and 33 stated that they could not afford an insurance. According to 22 people, comparing the various insurance providers and policies was too difficult a task and 17 said that getting an insurance was just too complicated. 18 respondents noted that their insurance provider does not offer derby insurances at all.

Severe injuries rare
Of the 164 respondents, 32 had suffered a total of 33 injuries. Six of these had a significant impact on the respondent’s ability to work, and 14 injuries had a minor or short-term impact. 18 respondents reported having applied for coverage in their insurance provider as follows (the number of cases in parentheses):

Applied and reimbursed by the insurance provider
Doctor’s appointment / Health centre fee (16)
Medical imaging (13)
Surgery (3)
Physical therapy (1)
Other follow-up treatment (2)
Medicine expenses (6)

Applied but not reimbursed (e.g. not covered in the insurance policy)
Doctor’s appointment / Health centre fee (2)
Medical imaging (2)
Physical therapy (2)
Statement from a medical specialist (2)

This is how we are insured
There are about 600 derby players in Finland and the survey was taken by 164 people. The percentages and average prices should be considered preliminary.

Insured: 54% Not insured: 46%

LähiTapiola 300 € 45% Fennia 100 € 22% IF 300 € 12%
Pohjantähti 250 € 6% Mandatum Life 350 € 2% Turva 1%
Aktia 200 € 1% Pohjola 400 € 11%
Average prices per year.

“My insurance provider offered me a ridiculously expensive insurance (Pohjola, 1500 euros/year).”

“We have discussed different insurance companies in our team but it hasn’t been easy to find the right insurance.”

”I strained my groin in a bout. I told the doctor that it happened while I was jogging because my insurance does not cover accidents that happen in competitive sports.”

“I was jamming and took a hit but when I fell my butt landed on my right foot. Initially I thought that I just sprained my ankle but then found out at the doctor’s that it was actually broken.”

14 accidents did not require medical treatment or the person paid for the treatment themself. Most accidents happened when a person fell when training. Only two respondents were injured in a bout. Knee injuries were the most common (8 cases) and ankle injuries, either sprained or broken ankles, were the second most common (7 cases). There were also some cases of injuries to the shoulders, sides, hands and fingers. Two thigh injuries were reported, and only one person reported having sustained a concussion. Even though the survey focused on accidents, two respondents reported suffering from repetitive strain injuries.

Something must be done
Based on the survey it is not possible to draw definite conclusions. One thing, however, is clear: the amount of non-insured skaters is too high. We are now looking at the insurance companies and, more importantly, derby leagues and Roller Derby Finland as the national derby association.

For comparison, you can read e.g. Haverinen, Henna: Miesten ja naisten urheiluvammat salibandyssa (in Finnish) https://jyx.jyu.fi/dspace/bitstream/handle/123456789/42002/URN%3aNBN%3afi%3ajyu-201308212175.pdf?sequence=1

More info about the survey from Roller Derby Finland: 

What would be the best way to improve the situation?
a) In order to become a member of Roller Derby Finland, leagues must ensure that their members are insured
b) Trying to push derby into Luisteluliitto (Finnish Speed Skating Association) where the sports license costs around 30 euros (according to Sauli Pollari, the General Secretary)
c) Roller Derby Finland or derby leagues themselves negotiating with different insurance companies
d) Acquiring a sports license through Valo (Finnish Sports Conferedation)
…or something else? Something must be done. The present situation is surprising, if not concerning.

First published in KARU 2/2013
Text: Raisa Siivola
Translation: Zero Holerance