Insurance cover for individual sports and hobbies

Both professional and occasional sportspeople need to think about the insurance cover they need for their person, equipment and dependants.

Key points

  • Anyone taking part in a potentially dangerous sport should think about the impact of an accident, theft or another loss
  • Consider liability, personal accident and your equipment
  • Think also about protecting your livelihood and the family or other dependants who may rely on you

When Olympic gold medallist Dani King fell off her bike, insurance cover helped soften the landing.

She still suffered eight broken ribs, a punctured lung, a bruised liver and the "dark thoughts" that flooded her mind in the back of an ambulance, but at least the prospect of unpaid bills didn't add to her distress.

King has since made a full recovery from her injuries suffered in November 2014.

But the fact that the accident was completely out of her control - a training partner hit a pothole before toppling into her - should make every enthusiastic cyclist pause for thought.

Team sports participants often have a basic level of insurance cover through their clubs, but this is often not the case for those who spend time on individual sports like cycling, climbing or surfing.

They may have no insurance cover at all, especially if they haven't registered with membership schemes organised by their sport's governing body or association.

Even if they have taken advantage of insurance that comes with belonging to a sport's organised scheme, individuals should check carefully the level of their cover and decide whether they wish to take out additional policies for their own protection.

Insurance areas to consider

Anyone involved in an individual sport that carries a certain amount of risk should think about three areas of potential concern: liability for damage to another person or their property; personal accident and associated costs; loss or damage to their own sporting equipment.

Beginners' guide to health insurance

Consider, for example, what could happen if your bike struck a pedestrian or vehicle, what would you do if you fell while climbing and needed long-term medical assistance, or could you afford another surfboard and wetsuit if someone stole yours?

Personal accident insurance

When King - who won a team pursuit gold medal at London 2012 - suffered her accident, her agent and manager Steve Fry took care of the resulting claims.

"Everything that Dani went through was covered," said Fry. "Her initial care was done through the NHS, but from the day she left hospital her remaining treatment - including consultants and physiotherapy - was covered by UK Sport through a deal with Bupa.

"Her personal injury insurance was covered through UK Sport. If you're part of the British Cycling Olympic programme, then you are in effect a UK Sport-funded athlete. That gives you private health insurance."

If you want cover that would take care of loss of earnings in the sport... then you need to take that cover out yourself, it's something we advise
Sports manager Steve Fry

Insurance for sports equipment

One crumb of comfort for King was that she didn't have to worry about her wrecked bicycle.

"For a professional cyclist, one of the great ironies is that you never actually own a bike," said Fry. "The bike is owned by the team you ride for. All of your kit and your bike is supplied by your team."

But what about if you happen not to be a professional cyclist, less still an Olympic champion? What then?

Fry is an enthusiastic rider himself and likes to enter events organised by British Cycling, the sport's UK governing body.

The organisation offers insurance to members at varying levels of cover, for those who wish to race as well as those who ride for fun.

When this article was originally researched in January 2015, it offered personal liability cover for up to £10m, plus personal accident cover with lump sums for death and permanent disability up to £25,000.Bicycle insurance

Membership packages that included the insurance cover varied between £33 and £71 per annum.

They did not include theft and damage cover for the bike itself, but these can be covered by your home insurance or sourced through specialist cycling insurers such as Cycleguard, Evans and ETA.

In January 2015 Surfing Great Britain were overhauling their insurance offer to members, but there were specialist surfing insurers such as Offsure. As with cycling, they offered cover for personal liability and accident as well as equipment cover for boards and wet suits.

Again such equipment could be protected by including the appropriate personal possessions cover away from home on your house insurance.

Surfers going overseas should check their travel insurance as some policies have exclusions on their medical cover for activities like surfing. It is possible to take out dedicated travel cover for adventurous sports, though.

Check your T&Cs!

    If you have life insurance, income protection and/or critical illness cover, check whether there are exclusions for dangerous activities

For climbers, hill-walkers and moutaineers, the insurance issues can be more complicated as some of these higher-risk activities will have an impact on premiums for general life insurance and critical illness policies as well as specific sports-related cover.

There's a wide variety of cover available, depending on the risk associated.

Walking in the Cotswolds is obviously considered a far lower-risk activity than scaling a particularly difficult high-altitude peak in the Antarctic, and this will be reflected in policies and premiums.

The British Mountaineering Council (BMC) offer a range of insurance to cover walking, trekking, rock climbing, abseiling, skiing and snowboarding through to climbing in remote and inaccessible regions.

Operated through ProSight Speciality Insurance, the benefits include not only liabilities and medical cover as well as loss and damage to equipment, but search and rescue expenses of up to £100,000.

However, like the cover offered through cycling and surfing member associations, the BMC's policies do not cover for loss of earnings in the event of an accident.

Protecting your income and your dependants

If you're concerned that an accident in your chosen sport could prevent you from working, then you should seek additional income protection insurance.

Income protection

This could apply to any profession - including professional sport itself.

"If you want cover that would take care of loss of earnings in the sport, up to being forced out of the sport through injury, then you need to take that cover out yourself," said Fry. "It's something we advise.

"It's something every pro cyclist should consider because it's their livelihood that is at stake. They should always think about what would happen if the worst should occur."

By Graham Thomas