Running Injury Insurance: The Low Cost Plan You Might Already Have!

MRI = Cha Ching no more! Image via wikipedia.
MRI = Cha Ching no more! Image via wikipedia.

We’re all going to get injured. I know that is not something we like to plan for or even think about, but it happens. Did you know that there is injury insurance out there that is incredibly cheap, might reduce your out of pocket costs for treating injuries to zero and … here’s the real kicker … that you might already have it!

I pick on USATF for a lot of things, but the insurance that comes with any old $35 per year USATF membership is a bargain. When combined with your primary health insurance, the USATF Group Accident Insurance can reduce or eliminate out of pocket costs incurred for treating running injuries. As long as you have your bases covered by checking that your races are sanctioned and practices are registered, this could reduce your out of pocket costs to treating injuries to $0. Sound like a pretty good deal for $35 yearly membership? It could be, but you must keep several things in mind:

The plan provides secondary coverage if you accidentally get injury when participating at sanctioned USATF events, registered practices of USATF member clubs, and even while traveling to and from sanctioned events and practices.

The important points to ensure you are covered are that:

  • Practices must be with a member club and the practices, themselves, must be registered.
  • Races must be sanctioned.
  • You must meet the deadlines and follow the procedure for reporting claims after an accidental injury.
  • Coverage is subject to coordination of benefits — a concept that stumps most people (particularly those in the US). We’ll briefly review how much coverage is provided and how is it calculated.

Injuries During Training

To receive coverage for an injury incurred in training, you must: 1) belong to a club that is a USATF member club; and 2) that training session or practice must be registered. My hometown Cleveland running gang is a USATF registered club. Go here to see if your club is registered with the USATF. I’ve written about how I meet with my club at a bagel store at 8am on Sundays. It might sound silly, but would you believe that this sunday run has actually been registered with USATF as one of our club’s practices? Get confirmation from your club managers and if there is a change meeting times or locations, that they took two minutes to go online and update the practice time. In fact, if your club can be consistent at all in their meeting place and time, make sure that every practice gets registered.

Coverage isn’t just limited to running. Technically, the coverage should apply if you are bike support during your club’s training. It may even apply to practices that include other aspects of the sport, such as resistance training as long as they are registered.

Injuries During Races

Injuries resulting from participation in USATF sanctioned events are covered.  Not all races are USATF sanctioned. You can verify whether a race is sanctioned here. It’s important to note here that just because a race course is a USATF certified course doesn’t mean the race is also sanctioned – sanctioned and certified are two distinct things! Certification means the race course is the distance advertised, while sanctioning means the race follows USATF rules. Most races of any significance are sanctioned, but be careful with small and local races! Most local races (particularly shorter ones) probably are not sanctioned.

You don’t need to run in the race to be covered! The official USATF statement is that coverage also applies to course measurers while measuring the course as long as the measurement is conducted after the race is sanctioned.

The Actual Coverage

Now the mumbo jumbo. The plan provides coverage after a $200 deductible subject to 20% coinsurance for the first $5,000 with a $10,000 coverage maximum. This is secondary to your primary medical insurance, but for injuries in excess of the deductible, can reduce your out of pocket cost to $0. Coordination of benefits is a complicated insurance concept that applies when you are covered by more than one insurance plan.


A few minutes of boring reading is worth a lot of $$$. Image via wikipedia.

I know it is insanely kind of boring, but what you should know is that the USATF plan pays in addition to your regular medical  insurance plan. So if we look at an example where you are charged $2000 for a doctor visit and MRI and your primary health insurance has a $1000 deductible, 20% coinsurance and your accidental injury is covered by USATF insurance:

Your primary health insurance pays $800 ([$2000-$1000 deductible] x 0.80 coinsurance), USATF plan pays up to $1440 ([$2000-$200 deductible] x .80 coinsurance). This totals more than $2000, so your don’t end up paying anything out of pocket. Technically your primary insurance ends up paying $800 and USATF ends up paying $1200. $1200 it is the lesser of the balance and total benefits available for the accident.

Ok. That might have been rough, but …

The point is, that when all is said and done, that MRI is $0 to you! So, it’s very well worth making a claim if you experience an injury that requires costly treatments during a USATF registered training practice or in a sanctioned race!

Are you a USATF Member? Did you know you had this insurance? If you’re not a member, would knowing about this insurance entice you to become one?

I'm a subelite marathon runner, but I didn't come from a collegiate running background. Instead I'm trying to break into competitive running in my thirties. I write about chasing the dream of running with the elite girls and tell stories of adventures along the way. Watch me chase the next big thing.

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  1. I was reading the information on this insurance and I found this exclusion from coverage, which I think might limit the applicability of this insurance for a lot of injuries:

    The policy does not pay for “treatment required for conditions caused by repetitive motion injuries and not as a result of an Accident, including but not limited to: Osgood-Schlatter’s Disease, bursitis, chondromalacia, shin splints, and tendinitis.”

    So, it’s important to know that the policy will not cover the most common minor injuries like tendinitis, bursitis and shin splints, and the injury would need to be a little freaky – like you twist your ankle or knee by stepping in a pothole or something along those lines. I think this is great to know about because there is some gray area, but it won’t cover a lot of typical injuries from the “repetitive motion” category (so a stress fracture probably wouldn’t be covered unless it was caused from something that happened during that particular practice or race). But what injuries are caused by repetitive motion and what are “accidental” is pretty specific to the exact injury and probably debatable.

    So basically, it’s not quite as amazing as it appears, but it’s still great to know about! Thanks for bringing our attention to it!!!

  2. Thanks for passing this on! Last week we had two folks in our club hit by cars on the Saturday run. In the previous year we’ve had a few broken bones. It sounds like a pretty inexpensive option to cover this sort of thing.