“My son was injured at football practice about two weeks before the season began,” said South Carolina resident and parent Neal Kinard. “He’s an offensive lineman and he was blocking the defensive nose guard. A linebacker came rushing through the gap and hit the side of his knee and basically his knee bent the way it’s not supposed to bend.”
A serious sports injury is every parent’s fear. But when Kinard’s son tore his meniscus during high school football practice, that was only the beginning of their nightmare.
Their South Carolina school recently began requiring parents to carry insurance for part of the risk from high school sports. Experts say this growing trend is due to skyrocketing costs from lawsuits.
Close to Kinard’s son’s school, in the nearby Beaufort County School District, student-athletes can expect to start paying for athletic insurance this fall. The school district says it is the only way to keep their sports programs.
In the past decade, their cost to insure athletics has more than doubled — to about $350,000 dollars.
Attorney Lisa Taylor said schools pay right out of their bottom line for these lawsuits. Once the case has ended, she says, the school gets hit again by rising insurance premiums, causing schools to shift more of those costs to the families.
“Remember you have schools that are ‘public schools’ but they are not free anymore,” said Taylor. “You have fees for books and then you compile that with costs associated with insurance. How are these families supposed to allow kids to participate in athletics to keep them busy to keep them off the streets?”
Tight budgets and taxpayer scrutiny put pressure on anything not directly connected to the classroom. So if a student wants to play, chances are they will have to pay.
The Kinards never thought about suing. Instead, they are now paying, due partly to other peoples’ lawsuits.
“It’s been about three months since he started playing again and I still haven’t figured out all the bills,” said Kinard. “It’s just a very difficult process to deal with.”