Ask An Actuary: How Costly Is A Footballer’s Injury?

Footballer sitting on pitch next to football

Professional footballers are assets worth millions in an industry worth billions – but what happens when an asset breaks down? Whatever their market value, footballers inhabit fragile, human bodies. Injuries are as costly as they are common, so it’s vital that a player’s employers know how to cover their losses, which is why football clubs sign up actuaries as well as star strikers.

“An insurance policy is likely to cover medical costs and loss of earnings,” explains Sally Calder, an actuary with nearly 20 years’ experience in professional education. “Medical costs will cover treatment but also any rehabilitation. Plus, if the player is out of action following the injury, there’ll be a loss of earnings for the club, and if they have to bring in another player, while still paying the injured player, then there’ll be costs associated with that, too.”

Injuries are an expensive affair. That’s why football clubs – the sensible ones, at least – take precautions.

“Insurers may exclude certain conditions and injuries from their policies,” says Sally. “If a player has a history of injury to his left knee, which has left him with a weakness, the insurer might exclude injuries to that player’s left knee. They may also specify requirements for players to maintain their fitness in order for the insurance policy to be valid.”

However, it isn’t necessarily as easy as identifying the Achilles’ heel in a player, literally or otherwise. Past evidence must be assessed, data logged, numbers crunched. 

“The insurer will want to consider how likely an injury is,” Sally explains. “They would increase the premium for a player with a history of multiple injuries, but looking forward, they might consider the player’s position on the pitch, their role, even their reputation. An overly assertive player may be involved in more clashes, increasing the chances of injury. An insurer might consider how many times the player has been booked by a referee.”

Working with the insurer, an actuary will examine many metrics to calculate risk level. Sonal Shah adds more factors to those already mentioned, including opposition, time spent on the pitch and even the pre-match warm-up routine.

“Risk and cost would vary from footballer to footballer,” says Sonal. “An actuary would analyse the relevant data and use their judgement to project risk and cost, looking at data such as wages, ticket sales and the price of medical care. 

“Each injury is different.”