By Beth Block
Recently, I watched a 32-year-old martial arts instructor teaching a full-rotation, head-level roundhouse kick. He was teaching this kick in the first class of the day. He had not yet worked out because he had been driving, picking up students at school and bringing them to the studio for the after-school program.
At 56, I know I need to warm up my muscles before straining them. When I don’t, I pay for it with pulls, strains and pain. Sometimes, I’ve paid for it with rips.
I also know it’s a good idea for students of any age to warm up their muscles before challenging them. My chiropractor has explained the long-term effect of abusing my muscles. Even if I don’t feel the strain, my muscle gets a micro-tear. Over the years, those micro-tears result in knotty, scarred muscles. Owww!
At 32, the instructor was young enough to think he could still do the full-rotation kick cold. At 32, he was old enough that his hamstring tore. A hamstring tear can take one to three months to heal. He still has to pay rent and eat while it is healing.
In this instructor’s situation, he is now six weeks into the healing process and counting. He has medical bills. As soon as he told his doctor how the injury happened, the doctor had to lock him into the worker’s-compensation track. This is a state law here in Florida.
By law? How can this be true? The studio provided him with health insurance. He wanted to know why he couldn’t use that insurance.
As it turns out, any kind of injury that happens at work must be handled through work comp. There are a lot of insurance reasons for this law, but the fact remains, any time the injury is work-related, it must go through work comp.
This studio did not have work comp. They had several reasons for not having it.
First, the studio owner prioritized health insurance for the instructors. That was a benefit.
Second, work comp is hard to find for martial arts studios. Work-comp companies are quite scared of our industry. They think of the kind of head-banging gyms that were common in the 1970s. We do still have some of those gyms. We also have many family-friendly fitness gyms. But the insurance companies are still focused on the 1970s-type of martial arts gym.
Third, work comp can be expensive. Many of us are still building our schools. Building any business means we have to carefully budget our money. As we’re budgeting, we don’t always realize there might be laws regulating the choices we make.
Every state in America has laws that spell out whether or not we have to buy work comp. In some states, the law requires coverage with as few as one employee. Unless we file to exempt ourselves, we are that one employee. Part-time employees are included in the count. Texas is the only state to make work comp coverage optional.
If you don’t have coverage, even in Texas, you are responsible for your instructor’s torn hamstring. His medical coverage cannot pay for the medical bills. Nothing is going to replace his lost income. It’s all your cost.
To make it even worse, the state work comp officials showed up at the studio. They fined the school owner $2,500 and added a $1,000 a day fine for every day the studio didn’t have work comp. The officials gave the owner seven days to get work comp or they were going to lock up the school.
The studio could not get comp because they were required to have it, but had never bought it before. I know – it doesn’t seem logical. But, if you needed the coverage and didn’t have it, insurance companies won’t take you until you’ve had the coverage for a few months. That means you have to start in your state fund.
Some state funds make it tough to buy coverage. In the state for the studio we’ve been talking about, it took eight days. The official was understanding, and saw they had been working hard to get coverage and did not shut them down.
Avoid this challenge in your studio. Check out your requirements today. If you want the state chart I’ve printed, send an email to [email protected].
Beth Block can be reached at (800) 225-0863 or [email protected].
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