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For Star Athletes, Disability Coverage Doesn't Come with a Guarantee

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Talented college athletes with dreams of going pro have much to lose, but LSU's Leonard Fournette seems to take it in stride: "I don't think about it. This is the second time I'm actually talking about it. I leave everything in God's hands."

That quote comes from Dennis Dodd with CBS Sports, who writes about the unregulated world of player protection in a May 2016 article. As Dodd reports, Fournette has two insurance policies, each worth $10 million, which makes Fournette "one of the most heavily insured players in college sports history."

At the same time, though, even if you are heavily insured, these policies don't necessarily come with guarantees.

Who is Leonard Fournette?

At age 21, the LSU Tigers running back might be the next Adrian Peterson, is projected to be one of the NFL's top draft picks in 2017, and is arguably the nation's No. 1 recruit when it comes to raw talent and potential.

In short, Fournette could be the next football great, but as Dodd points out, "It could all go away with one unfortunate injury" - hence the two $10M disability insurance policies.

Purchasing 'career-ending insurance' is now common practice.

One of Fournette's policies provides coverage of $10M in the event of total disability; the other another $10M if circumstances devalue his position in the upcoming NFL draft. Disability policies are now "common practice," Dodd writes, for the best college players.

But what happens when a promising young player suffers an injury that devalues or eliminates his NFL prospects? In short, what if it's the nightmare scenario for a player who has dreamt of going pro?

Insurance policies rarely come with guaranteed payouts.

Injuries happen, all too easily, especially in a high-impact sport like football.

That's why Dodd characterizes these types of disability policies as "career-ending insurance." The characterization isn't far off the mark. If an injury ruins Fournette's playing career, these policies (theoretically at least) will provide a multimillion-dollar measure of financial relief, a kind of safeguard against nightmare scenarios.

We say "theoretically" because, as Dodd points out, the world of player protection is largely unregulated. Insurance companies generally do not answer to a higher authority, even when it comes to star athletes. In your "average" situation, one involving a doctor's or dentist's disability policy, for example, insurance companies routinely exercise their own discretion over paying out on a claim.

In other words, with the exception of taking legal action to protect yourself, not much stops insurance companies from wrongfully delaying or denying claims.

Your best bet is to seek advice before purchasing coverage.

Athletes and their families often benefit greatly from sound advice prior to purchasing disability insurance coverage. No two policies are the same, especially when it comes to athletes like Leonard Fournette.

"The proof is in the numbers," Dodd writes. "The NCAA began sponsoring career-ending insurance in 1990. In the 26-year existence of what is now called Exceptional Student-Athlete Disability Insurance, only a handful of athletes have ever collected."

And when you consider the exorbitant premiums policyholders pay for this type of coverage, the risk/reward ratio starts to look quite promising - for the insurance industry, at least.

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