Long Term Care Planning

How Does Disability Insurance for Athletes Work? (2023 Guide)

How Does Disability Insurance for Athletes Work? (2023 Guide)

In this article

— Last Updated May 27, 2022

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8 mins
Reviewed by
Eric Berkman

Guide How Does Disability Insurance for Athletes Work? (2023 Guide)

— Last Updated May 27, 2022

Stephanie Wilson

Director of Operations


Reviewed by

Eric Berkman


Disability insurance is a crucial investment for anyone. After all, it’s often the sole source of income when you’re exposed to a life-changing injury or condition.

However, athletes should take it even more seriously. If you’re participating in a sport, you’re putting your body and health on the line every time you hit the field or put in a good day’s training. One unfortunate slip, or just one accidental collision, and you can be injured and unable to work for lengthy periods of time.

Disability insurance for athletes is a necessity, but it’s not a simple subject. So, let’s go over the details that will help you find the right plan for you.

What is Disability Insurance for Athletes?

Disability insurance is a form of private insurance that protects you against injury and illness-related loss of income. In the simplest terms, it’s specifically designed to keep you financially safe if you’re unable to work.

If you break a leg, develop a life-changing illness, or otherwise are rendered incapable of performing your job duties, your disability insurance policy will pay you regularly to ensure that you can still make ends meet.

What Does Disability Insurance Cover for Athletes?

There are multiple forms of disability insurance, and each one will provide a drastically different experience. In the best-case scenario, you will only need short-term disability, and you’ll simply lean on a short-term disability policy until you can get back to work and back in the gym safely.

However, long-term disability insurance is meant for extended, or even life-long, absences from work. This forces long-term disability policies to consider a lot more factors to ensure your needs are met.

There’s also a government-funded form of disability called SSDI. This insurance is the least likely to meet your needs, but it has its own unique perks, too.

In general, you can expect all of these disability insurance policies to provide you with reliable monthly income. The amount will be determined by your policy agreement and needs, but the federal rate used for SSDI is $783. So, that’s a baseline for you to consider and judge private policy offers by.

The exact differences will be detailed later.

Who Qualifies for Disability Insurance?

Many disabilities are covered by the vast majority of disability insurance policies. The most obvious examples are also the most serious. Things such as heart attacks, strokes, severe mental disabilities that affect one’s ability to function, severe chronic back injuries, and pulmonary issues are among the most common.

However, there are other less obvious illnesses and injuries that can make you eligible for a disability insurance claim.

For example, some workers are deemed incapable of handling the stress caused by a work environment due to extremely severe anxiety or PTSD. Some individuals receive disability insurance after being burned badly, and others lose their vision or hearing from an accident or aging. Women can even make a short-term claim due to pregnancy.

If a disability makes working overly difficult, dangerous, or not an option at all, there is a strong likelihood that your disability insurance policy will cover it.

This goes for both injuries and illnesses that will heal relatively quickly, and for things that are much longer lasting.

Is Disability Insurance Worth it?

Disability insurance is, for the most part, optional. With that being said, many people wonder if the potential benefits are worth the added expense of another insurance policy.

Well, it’s highly recommended that everyone enrolls in a disability insurance policy that will at least meet their minimal needs given the unfortunate situation where it becomes necessary.

It’s easy to think that you won’t fall victim to one of the illnesses or injuries that are eligible for disability insurance, but none of the 61-million American adults on disability probably thought they’d be in their predicaments, either.

As an athlete who engages in intense physical activity, you put yourself at more risk than the vast majority of those people.

Luckily, you have flexible options that make this added expense more bearable.

How Much Does Disability Insurance Cost?

The exact cost of your disability insurance policy, like almost every policy, will depend on the provider, the policy you choose, and a number of other factors. However, disability insurance isn’t overly expensive. Make sure you remember that when applying for disability insurance.

In fact, the average policy only costs 1% to 2% of your annual income, and premiums average 5% of the potential benefit payout your policy can provide each month.

For example, if you make $30,000 a year, you can expect to pay $600 for an entire year of coverage. If on top of that, a policy that promises to pay out $1000 per month when needed will likely cost you $50 whenever your premium is due.

Compared to other forms of insurance, this is extremely inexpensive and well worth the investment, and you won’t regret it if an unexpected accident occurs or you fall ill.

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The Types and Differences of Disability Insurance Policies for Athletes

There are three main types of disability insurance policies. For most athletes, private insurance will be your only option for pre-emptive coverage. There are two kinds to consider.

The third option is government-funded, and it is typically only provided to those who do not have disability insurance and cannot afford a private policy.

Short-Term Disability Insurance

Hopefully, this is the only policy you’ll need to make use of in your athletic career. This type of insurance is designed to cover your financial needs for anything from a couple of weeks to a year.

Short-Term Disability is typically for injuries that have clear-cut recovery times, or for normal illnesses that prevent you from bringing in income for a short time.

If you break a limb, damage a spinal disc, or contract a temporary illness that makes it impossible to work for longer than your paid sick days cover, your short-term disability can be claimed, and you’ll get enough financial compensation to keep you afloat.

These benefits typically aren’t paired with other benefits, but further assistance may be easier to receive once you have a short-term disability claim.

Short-term disability also gets approved faster. This often makes it a transitory insurance policy when more long-term situations occur.

However, most employers or policy providers require you to use any paid time off you’ve accrued before they will begin paying your benefits. You should not be required to use unpaid time off, though.

How it’s used:

Short-term disability is used for two reasons: Temporary financial relief during recovery and as transitory insurance while waiting for a long-term policy to be approved.

A short-term policy will only trigger as a transitory option if you hold both long and short-term policies before the injury occurs.

When it’s best:

Short-term disability insurance shines for athletes during those relatively minor, yet serious enough to prevent the accumulation of normal income, injuries that are so common.

Broken limbs, surgical repairs with short-term recovery expectations, and sudden illnesses such as Covid-19 can keep you out of the game or work for a substantial, yet still short-term, period.

It’s also a great option for female athletes who intend to get pregnant. Pregnancy will obviously prevent you from participating in athletic endeavors, and even most jobs are stressful or difficult for pregnant women. A short-term disability claim can provide you with income while you focus on maintaining a healthy body throughout your pregnancy.


A short-term disability policy is cheap, reliable, and the most likely to be used. Therefore, it’s highly recommended to enroll in one.

It’s not as common for terminal illnesses to suddenly develop, or for freak accidents to occur and permanently end your athletic career or labor potential, but your engagement in athletic activities makes smaller, short-term incidents very likely.

While it is recommended to have a long-term plan due to your increased likelihood of suffering a long-term injury, this is the bare minimum that every athlete should have.

Long-Term Disability Insurance for Athletes

Long-term disability is the next step up from short-term disability insurance. It’s designed specifically for injuries and illnesses that you’re not going to recover from within 90 days.

You may be diagnosed with a mental disorder that prevents you from working, or you may suffer an injury that requires multiple invasive surgeries with years of pain and suffering.

Unfortunately, this type of insurance being claimed is typically due to career-ending injuries. Things such as correcting disfigured spinal discs, loss of vision or hearing, the onset of joint and muscular pain from years of abuse, or sudden issues such as CTE.

Long-term disability insurance is also the more difficult of the two private options. There’s a more time-consuming approval process involved, and you will likely be left without benefits for a period of months before your benefits kick in.

This makes some sort of supplementary plan or a proper emergency fund absolutely necessary.

How it’s used:

Long-term disability is typically your last option as an athlete. Once an injury or illness has occurred that will take far longer than 90 days to correct, you claim your long-term disability policy, and the claim goes into review.

If accepted, you’ll receive the full list of benefits outlined in your policy.

When is it best?

Long-term disability insurance is a good option for very severe injuries.

As you know, your likelihood of suffering serious skeletal breaks, disc problems, and other issues are much higher due to your physical activity.

When an injury occurs that will require multiple surgeries or one that causes irreparable damage, you’ll know the importance of a long-term disability policy. This is when a long-term policy shines despite the inherently negative nature of needing one.

A long-term disability claim might not be optimal, but it does have some extended perks that will make the blow a bit easier to weather.

It’s typically far easier to obtain further assistance from government-funded programs in the case that your policy doesn’t pay enough to satisfy your needs, and there are even programs that allow you to make the most of your monthly check to further secure your future despite the lack of income. These are often sold separately or applied for separately, but they are there to help.


It’s highly recommended to pair your long-term disability policy with a short-term policy. This is for two main reasons.

First, you are far more likely to need a short-term policy throughout your athletic career. Every time you break a bone, suffer torn ligaments or damage your joints severely, you can use your short-term policy to help you weather the loss of work. As an athlete, you’ll likely experience such short-term injuries far more frequently than an average office worker.

Secondly, a short-term policy can greatly impact your financial stability when you need to claim a long-term policy. Long-term policies tend to take months to be approved, and your long-term policy provider will not pay you any benefits until the claim is approved.

You can use the short-term policy to cover your immediate needs while your long-term claim is processed.

Given the long-term nature of injuries and illnesses associated with this type of policy claim, it’s also recommended to contact a wealth management firm. This can help you rearrange your financial life and make decisions that allow you to continue building wealth on a limited income.

Since you’ll be relying on this type of policy for an extended amount of time, it’s also recommended to get the help of a professional insurance consultant before signing any agreements.


SSDI is Social Security Disability Insurance, and it’s designed to help those who cannot afford the added expenses of a private disability insurance policy.

If you have a career in sports, it’s unlikely that you’ll qualify for SSDI. However, this is a potential option if your athletic life is separate from your main career and you’re a relative low-income worker.

It is more optimal to enroll in a private policy ahead of any injuries or serious illnesses; as this type of policy is regulated by the federal rate of $783 per month. For most, that is a considerable income cut.

However, recipients of SSDI are almost always eligible for food stamps, state-funded medical insurance, back pay from the date they make a claim, and more. This helps make the adjustment to such a limited income a lot easier.

Should I Get Disability Insurance for Athletes?

You’re an athlete. You put your body at risk nearly every day by training intensely and putting your skills to the test in a competitive environment. While that’s admirable and fun, it’s also risky. So, it’s highly recommended that you get, at a minimum, a short-term disability insurance policy. This will cover the most common injuries among athletes. However, investing in a long-term disability policy on top of that is optimal, as it will help lessen the impact of a career-ending injury.

Do not try to shop for disability insurance on your own, though. The life-saving benefits of a disability insurance policy will only help if you pick a plan that suits your needs. If you choose wrongly, you may have a very rough life for years to come.

Need advice on disability insurance for athletes? Contact us or schedule a free consultation, and we will get back to you soon!



Stephanie Wilson


January 14, 2022

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