BOSTON (AP) _ A major insurance group covering professional and college athletes will write no new policies on football players this year because the rate of injuries is increasing, a magazine reported Thursday.

The decision could make player contracts harder to negotiate, a Boston sports attorney told New England Business magazine.

The magazine said the report would be published in its Dec. 1 issue, which will be on newsstands Monday.

State Mutual Life Assurance Co. of America in Worcester and American Sports Underwriters of Woburn provide coverage for more than 75 percent of the franchises and 42 percent of the athletes they employ.

Pro football players' salaries average $203,000 a year, and baseball players receive $460,000 on average, making them hefty risks, the magazine said.

Edward A. Dipple, president of American Sports, said his firm has ''stepped away'' from writing insurance contracts because of the increasing rate of injuries, the use of steroids and, as a result, the insurer's failure to turn profits.

Each year State Mutual writes $5 million to $7 million in premiums while its underwriter, American Sports, handles about $10 million a year.

Sports attorney Bob Woolf, who has negotiated more than 2,000 contracts, said the insurers' move did not surprise him.

''I could see this coming, you get more and more claims coming in. There is no such thing as going through a season without injury,'' Woolf said. ''Football is getting more violent.''

Because most football contracts are not guaranteed, players could lose their livelihood as soon as an injury permanently forces them off the field, Woolf said. In the past five years, as insurance became available, players become more sophisticated about insuring their contracts against permanent disability, he said.

Without the insurance cushion, ''contracts will be harder to negotiate, Woolf said. ''You might take a little less money for the player to guarantee the contract.''