Too Tough to Underwrite?
As extreme amateur sports grow and evolve, so do
their risks—and insurers’ wariness as well
By BONNIE CAVANAUGH
SOME TYPES OF amateur and youth sports have emerged that are so new or so untested that insurance companies,
agencies and brokerages shy away from un-
Parkour, for example, has been seen in
some television commercials and music
videos, although anyone over 30 may not
have heard of it. That hasn’t stopped MIC
Insurance Brokerage Inc. of Naperville, Ill. from
investigating the sport.
President Tony Pulgine says his company
has seen some inquiries about Parkour, which
he describes as “an urban ‘free tumble’ type
of activity very popular on YouTube.” Several
gymnastics outfits in his area have considered
offering these types of services, but so far
standard-program writers have been hesitant
to entertain this exposure.
According to the sport’s Web site,
www.americanparkour.com, “Parkour is the
physical discipline of training to overcome
any obstacle within one’s path by adapting
one’s movements to the environment.” Players
basically jump, flip, climb and roll over any
urban obstacle in their path—whether it’s a
mailbox or a fenced-in alley.
MIC is also seeing a “significant increase”
in policies for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and
personal-fitness areas, Pulgine says. Many new
operations are opening in these segments,
and so far, the insurance carriers have been
receptive to the risks, he adds.
Others, like Philadelphia Insurance Cos. of
Bala Cynwyd, Pa., won’t touch MMA programs.
The high-contact sport combines the elements
of traditional martial arts with other fighting
techniques. It has not been tested enough
to be able to underwrite it properly, says
James Decker, assistant vice president for the
company’s commercial-lines division.
Image by Veer
“We’ll do martial-arts studios, and cross-
fit studios, and the health and fitness realm,”
Decker says. But in MMA, “there’s a lot of
[injuries] you can’t pretend don’t exist.”
Typical MMA injuries include broken bones,
cervical injuries, whiplash and concussions, as
parkour involves leaping over urban obstacles.
well as subdural hematoma (a common injury
in boxing that can cause tearing to the bridging
veins that connect the brain and the sinuses
that carry blood away from the brain).
Tough Mudder is a sporting event that’s a
subset of triathlons but also includes the perils
and pitfalls akin to an armed-forces basic-
training camp: players must climb, swing, long-
jump and dodge dangerous traps to traverse
the course. Although there’s not much physical
contact among players, the sport is so new
that Tough Mudder needs to establish itself
more so insurers can really understand the
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April 23, 2012 | National Underwriter Property & Casualty | 23