X Games sponsors must cover medical expenses
Caleb Moore’s unfortunate death Thursday, as a result of injuries suffered Jan. 24 at the X Games in Aspen, has raised serious questions about the safety of performing tricky aerial stunts with 500-pound, high-powered snowmobiles.
ESPN, the cable sports network that produces the games, issued an announcement after Moore died. “As a result of this accident, we will conduct a thorough review of this discipline and adopt any appropriate changes to future X Games,” the network said.
That’s certainly appropriate. But there has been little discussion of who covers the costs when these athletes are injured, and who should pay those costs.
In Moore’s case, there is a chance that St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction, and by extension its customers, could be left with part of the tab.
Moore was injured while competing in Aspen, among the weathiest communities on Earth. He was participating in an event staged by one of the most successful cable television networks.
But when his injuries proved too severe to handle at an Aspen medical facility, he was airlifted to St. Mary’s. Estimates of the cost for his flight and treatment exceed $100,000.
A website set up to raise money for Moore’s family said Moore did have health insurance. The fund-raising is aimed at covering any expenses insurance doesn’t meet, the website said. Good. We hope the combination of insurance and donated funds covers all the bills and St. Mary’s isn’t left to pay anything.
But the larger question is: What responsibility do the sponsors of the games have to ensure these sorts of costs are met?
According to a New York Times article Friday, the recently concluded X Games saw six athletes sent to the hospital by ambulance, including Caleb Moore and his brother Colten, who broke his pelvis in a separate snowmobile wreck.
The Times also wrote, “To compete, an X Games official said, athletes must have proof of medical insurance and sign a waiver.”
However, there’s little indication that the sponsors of the games help with insurance or medical costs. When the Los Angeles Times asked ESPN folks about the network’s investment in medical coverage for athletes, it received no reply.
The network and the city of Aspen make mega-bucks off the X Games and off the athletes so eager to risk their bodies to entertain the masses. Aspen even contributes money to the event, according to the Aspen Times. The games bring a boost to the local economy as well as invaluable publicity.
ESPN, Aspen and other X Games sponsors need to set up a fund or pay a bond — in excess of seven figures — to make sure athletes’ medical expenses are covered and not borne by the athletes’ families, their fans or neighboring communities.