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What to Do If You Suffer a Head Injury While Playing Sport

By Principal Lawyer, Personal Injury - Serious Injuries

A recent article in the Daily Mail highlighted the risks associated with recurrent episodes of concussion in contact sports such as rugby and football. The message from the piece was clear, "do not play on after concussion."

So what happens if you are seriously injured during a sports activity through no fault of your own?  

The law states that participants in a game owe each other a duty of care to take reasonable care in all the circumstances. But what does this actually mean?  

The Courts have identified a number of guiding principles:

  • Consenting to the normal risks of the game. If the action that resulted in injury was within the rules of the game, and what is expected in that particular type of game, then winning a claim is likely to be difficult. For example, a hard but fair tackle.
  • Intentionally causing injury will render a player liable, for assault and battery.
  • Likewise in relation to serious and dangerous/reckless foul play or a tackle carrying a significant risk of serious injury. For example, an obviously dangerous tackle in a football match. 
  • Clumsy tackles and instinctive reactions in the heat of the moment may not attract liability.
  • In horse racing cases, the test is that the offending rider needs to have shown reckless disregard for the injured rider’s safety.
  • If the offending player is employed/contracted, their club may be liable, as in the case of the promising Manchester United footballer Ben Collett who successfully pursued a claim against Middlesbrough FC. The position is less clear for amateurs.
  • The opinion of an ordinary, reasonable spectator is helpful when judging whether conduct warrants liability.

On the one hand a higher standard of behaviour is expected from sport professionals, whereas on the other hand some allowance may be made for the pressures of professional competition where the stakes are high.

Another issue to consider is whether there is any responsibility on referees, for example to bring the game to a stop where it is foreseeable that someone is going to get seriously injured.

Sports injury claims are not straightforward and each case needs to be considered according to the particular circumstances of the injury.

Andrew Zajac is a Personal Injury Lawyer specialising in serious injuries at Slater and Gordon in Cambridge.

Slater and Gordon Lawyers have offices in England, Scotland & Wales and offer a free consultation for people injured in sport accidents through no fault of their own. Call freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online and we'll be happy to help you.

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