IOWA: New concussion insurance kicks in for fall H.S. sports

PELLA, Iowa (KCWI) - High school athletes will have some extra protection against concussions this year. Thanks to a new supplemental insurance program through the Iowa Farm Bureau, every athlete who gets a concussion during a game or practice won't have to pay a single dollar out of pocket.

In Pella, the expectations for the football team are high as they always are going into the season. But this year, there is a new concussion protocol and insurance policy across all of the Iowa High School Athletic Association. Fortunately for Pella, they've been following those protocols for quite some time already and the transition won't be difficult for them at all.

"We had to change very little," said Jay McKinstrey, Pella's head football coach. "We feel good about where we're at, and we feel good that we're doing the right things in tackling. We're teaching the rugby style tackling that the Seattle Seahawks do."

There's a renewed vigor in camp for the Pella Dutch, and an extra statewide insurance policy, protecting the players against concussions.

"We have a great trainer in place right here and they always take good care of us and they won't let us go out there unless we're truly ready," said Ryan Gustafson, a senior quarterback for the Dutch. 

If a player has primary insurance, it pays the copay difference. If they don't have insurance, it covers the full cost. 

"It's not necessarily something that you always think about as a player, but it's something that if you think about it as a player, it's definitely reassuring," said Ryan DeJong, a senior tight end and defensive lineman for Pella. 

As camp's begins, everyone's mostly healthy. The state now requires players to take a baseline concussion test before they hit the field. That's something Pella had already been doing. 

"I think it's a good test, just to see where you're at.," said DeJong. "So, if you get a concussion or think that you might have one, they can check you and see where you're at."

As they fine tune their games for the season, they're just grateful that concussions are one less thing to stress over.

"Obviously, you're really focused on the game, but then especially when it's one of your close friends, you're still focused on the game, but you worry and you just want to make sure that they're okay," said DeJong. 

The program will be in place until at least Aug. 1 of 2019. IAHSAA board members will evaluate its long term outlook as the year goes on. Iowa is one of only seven states in the nation to have a program like this in place. 

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