Sports Related Injuries and Legal Liability

While some sports are inherently dangerous, some individuals sustain injuries due to the negligence of others. Legal liability may exist when a person is injured while playing a sport, but complex rules may apply.

About Sports Injuries

Many sports require strenuous activity that may be very hard on the body. Joints, muscles, bones and the skin are usually the first parts of the sportsman damaged. Jumping up to score points in basketball may lead to a fall onto someone or a part of the person’s body that causes harm. In most cases, the injury is repaired with therapy or treatment. However, there are some instances that cannot be fixed even with long-term care. These circumstances may require more medical costs than the usual injury on the playing field. 

Injury in the Gym

Injuries due to sports are a common occurrence. Some circumstances are open to liability, but most accidents are caused by the person working out or playing the sport. While the gym is responsible for maintaining the premises, other parties may sometimes be held liable for sports-related injuries, such as manufacturers when gym equipment is defective. Additionally, when people enter the gym, they may assume the risk of potential injuries just as they may when they play sports. Additionally, gyms may require members to sign waivers of liability. 


Waivers are intended to protect an entity or person from legal liability. Typically they are used to prevent loss of revenue to the facility or club the participant belongs to when an injury occurs. Waivers may affect clubs, gyms, membership services and even outings with friends. Waivers give away the right to a claim. They protect an agency from damages and liability associated with many injuries. While the entity may still be held liable for some circumstances, the waiver details what they cannot be held responsible for. 

The waiver is usually worked into paperwork for applying for membership to a club or facility. Many children and adults sign these without even reading the provisions. The stipulations on what the business is responsible for may be contained within the document. This waiver protects any and all agencies connected with the business when worded as such.

However, a signed waiver may not be absolutely determinative. Normally when a court is looking to whether or not to enforce the provisions included in the waiver, it considers whether the waiver specifically disclaimed liability for the type of injury that resulted, whether the waiver complied with the state law where the accident occurred and whether it violated any public policy or state law. Special considerations are often given when the party who is injured is a minor. Because minors are not considered legally competent, they cannot disclaim liability on their own behalf. However, even if a parent contractually obligates a child to such a waiver, many states refuse to enforce it as a matter of public policy. 

Assumption of Risk

When participating in unprofessional or leisure sports activities, most injuries cannot be held against another party for liability. Damage from these actions are often an accepted risk of playing the sports. Many such cases are dismissed because of this legal theory. However, this legal theory usually only applies when the type of injury and action that led to it would have been anticipated by a reasonably prudent person. When players are unreasonably hostile when playing a game, they may cause harm to the other participants. These actions could include pushing, punching, tripping, kicking and indirect harm they intentionally cause through their actions. Activities that include these acts may lead to litigation as the assumption of risk is not usually covered for intentional or unreasonable encounters by another.

Insurance Claims

Professional sports teams have their own insurance that covers any injuries the players sustain. If another party is liable, the insurance carrier makes this determination and proceeds behind the scenes to secure any necessary compensation.

Equipment Failure

In some instances, the equipment used may have a defect or malfunction that may not be known to the participant. Some cases may be started against the manufacturer holding them liable for these circumstances. This may be when the object did not perform as intended or when the defect caused the accident or injury. These actions are usually brought against the manufacturer of the defective equipment, not the facility that provided it. 

Contact a Lawyer

For understanding when liability and assumption of risk arise, an individual should contact a legal representative. He or she can assess the claim to determine if it is viable and offer recommendations on how to proceed. All documentation about the incident is needed, and negligence often requires extensive proof.