Injuries at work - when you're an athlete

In the same way as an office worker injured at work can claim compensation for personal injury, athletes who are injured on the pitch or the court could potentially do the same. As athletes are dependent on performing a sport for their living, any injury can have seriously life changing consequences, particularly when it comes to the ability to earn income. Where an injury has been suffered as a result of an accident in the athlete’s ‘workplace’ there is the potential to make a compensation claim.

Duty of care towards athletes

It is often argued that athletes are more aware than most of the potential risks of their sports. Some sports – such as skiing or rugby – have particularly high injury rates and many of those problems that arise simply as part of the game are par for the course of an athlete’s career. However, just as an employer has a duty of care towards their employees, the body responsible for the sport also has a duty of care towards the athletes that participate in the sport according to the rules and regulations that it has created. Employers are required to ensure that health and safety standards are maintained so that their employees can perform their roles without the risk of being injured and a similar duty applies here.

Basic standards

Sporting events organisers must adhere to a number of basic conditions and standards that are designed to create an environment that gives athletes the best chance of participating without injury. For example, regular safety checks should be carried out and any equipment involved properly maintained to ensure that it is safe to use. Sports that involve serious physicality should have a referee to keep interactions under control and there are rules about what First Aid should be available and when this needs to be applied.

Referees and coaches

As well as sporting bodies, referees and coaches are also under a duty of care to help avoid injury and accident on the field, court or training pitch. They are responsible for making sure that everything that could be done has been done to remove inherent risk from the environments they are responsible for.

Sports injury compensation

If a sporting body or a referee or coach has not carried out their duty of care and an athlete is injured then there is the potential to bring a sports injury claim. There are three main elements to a successful sporting injury claim and these are:

1. Establishing that there was a duty of care owed

2. Showing that someone, such as the sporting body or the coach, breached that duty of care.

3. Demonstrating that the athlete has suffered damage as a result of the breach of duty of care, for example an injury that results in loss of earnings.

It’s also worth noting that athletes also owe a duty of care to each other to “exercise all care that is objectively reasonable in the prevailing circumstances in order to avoid injury to such co-participants.” The definition of the prevailing circumstances includes factors such as the objective of the sport and the skill and judgment that could reasonably be expected by someone doing it.

So, while athletes are experts in the sports they practice, if an injury is suffered and a third party might be responsible, an injury at work claim can still be made.

To speak to a specialist sports injury solicitor at either our Lancaster or Preston offices, call 01524 386500.