Protecting Young Athletes at a Price - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Protecting Young Athletes at a Price

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Thousands of student athletes compete at the high school level and lower every day. 

And now, in Illinois, they are getting a little protection. 

Over the weekend Governor Pat Quinn signed Rocky's law - a bill passed in memory of a high school football player who died last year after a spine injury left him paralyzed. 

We talked to several district leaders all day who say this new law should give peace of mind to parents who send their kids to the field of court - but it also might cost a lot of money.

The law says that all school districts must provide $3 million of insurance coverage to student athletes up to 5 years after a catastrophic injury occurs. 

That's on top of insurance policies that all school districts are already required for non catastrophic injuries such as broken bones.

This new measure could end up costing districts as much as $5-10 per student. 

But some district leaders say even the small costs add up.

"In reality this is something that was passed by the state legislature that goes back on the property tax payers," says United Township Superintendent Jay Morrow. "School districts will be funding this out of something called the Tort immunity fund and school districts fund that from property taxes."

Dr. Morrow says it's still too early to know the financial impact it will have on tax payers. 

But some school districts in Illinois are already offering this "catastrophic injury coverage" to their athletes.

"All parents have that tiny bit of reluctance when they send their kid off for gymnastics or swimming or football or wrestling or whatever sport it might be," says Riverdale Superintendent Ron Jacobs. 

Jacobs has been at that position for six years - so he knows the ins and outs of a tight district budget. 

But providing extra insurance for seriously injured athletes is something he says every district in the country should try to find money for. 

"It takes one other thing off of their (the parents) mind that they have to worry about when they send their student out on the basketball floor, football field, or wrestling mat."

The Riverdale district started offering catastrophic injury insurance to their athletes and families in 2006.

They are part of a cooperation with 130 other school districts from around the state that decided to take on the extra cost - including Orion, Cambridge and Silvis. 

And now all districts in Illinois will have to find money to fund $3 million of insurance coverage for athletes who suffer catastrophic injuries.

But what "catastrophic" means can be a little unclear. 

"When you think of catastrophic," Jacobs explains, "you think of paralysis or death. I think there can be dramatic types of head injuries that would be covered under that as well."

The extra insurance only kicks in once a families regular insurance is used up. 

The new law comes into effect on January 1, 2014.

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