Million Dollar Body: Insurance For Pro Athletes

Football players tacklingPittsburgh Steelers strong safety Troy Polamalu is known for his three-foot locks, which spill out of his helmet like a superhero’s cape and figure prominently in his popular TV commercials for Head & Shoulders shampoo. Procter & Gamble took out a million-dollar insurance policy on his head of hair, making it the latest famous body part to get its own coverage.

The trend goes back to the 1920s, when vaudeville and silent-film star Ben Turpin, known for his permanently crossed eyes, took out a policy with Lloyd’s of London to pay out $20,000 (a princely sum at the time) should his eyes ever self-correct. In pro sports, examples range from Australian cricket star Merv Hughes’s $370,000 policy on his bushy mustache to David Beckham’s $70-million policy on his soccer-ball-bending legs.

Are the policies really necessary? “It makes little sense to insure a specific body part,” explains sports agent Stephen Freyer. “Most of the time, this is done for publicity.”

Former NHL goalie Mike Liut concurs. Now the managing director of sports agency Octagon Hockey, Liut says his clients are more concerned with insuring against career-ending injuries than protecting a single body part. “Besides,” he adds, “I don’t think Polamalu would hit opponents any softer with short hair… unless we believe in Samson.”

A pro athlete’s disability insurance covers most of the body. Though in some cases, such as a cricket bowler’s arm or a football kicker’s foot, a single part is all they need covered. “[In soccer], the legs not only propel the player but also constitute the equipment the player uses,” explains Liut. “With hockey, there’s a stick to propel the puck. So insuring a hockey player’s legs, hands or wrists would be shortsighted.”

But there’s another essential part to athletes: their marketability. Could Liut imagine a sponsor insuring an NHL star’s teeth to protect his smile? “No insurance company is taking that risk.”

Make sure all your essentials are covered by consulting a GEICO representative. Call us at 1-800-841-0728 or visit geico.com.

Read about other unusual insurance policies here.

By Mike Dojc

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