Recreational activities are defined as sports and physical activities for pleasure and leisure during free time.

These activities include sports, such as dirt bike racing and baseball, and recreational activities like camping and hunting. While some of these activities can be leisurely, they can also be associated with miscellaneous risks of injuries and accidents during play.

These injuries can be severe, especially for activities involving higher degrees of skill or more demanding playing conditions.

What Are Some Injuries That Result from Sports and Recreational Activity Accidents?

Any physical damage caused by someone else is deemed to be personal injury. The injuries that can arise from sports and recreational accidents can range from mild to extreme, depending on the nature and fast pace of the activity.

These injuries include:

  • Cuts and bruises
  • Simple to severe strains and sprains
  • Gashes
  • Broken bones
  • Burns
  • Concussions

Some sports and recreational casualties can involve injuries to many people at one time. For instance, this can happen in cases involving equipment failure or other comparable issues.

Are These Injuries Considered Sports Injuries?

Injuries are considered sports injuries if incurred by a person participating in a sporting event.

Sports injuries are divided into two categories:

  • Traumatic impact
  • Overuse

A traumatic injury is a strike or blow. An overuse injury ensues from repeated use of a body part.

What Are Some Examples of Sports Injuries?

Most sports injury claims consist of a traumatic injury instead of an overuse-type injury. You cannot expect to hold another individual responsible for injuries due to overexertion over time.

However, if a sports participant causes damage to another participant, it may form the foundation of a civil lawsuit. Sports law encompasses legal matters involving both amateur and professional sports. Lawsuits often overlap with labor, contract, antitrust, and tort laws.

Some illustrations of the most common sports injuries include, but may not be limited to:

  • Broken bones;
  • Head injuries;
  • Concussions;
  • Hip flexor strains;
  • Hamstring strains;
  • ACL strains or tears;
  • Pulled muscles, particularly groin pulls;
  • Shin splints;
  • Sciatica;
  • Tennis or golf elbow, which is due to the overuse of forearm tendons; or
  • Shoulder and knee injuries.

What Is the Assumption of Risk Doctrine?

The assumption of risk doctrine asserts that participants who willingly partake in a sporting activity cannot hold others liable for their injuries if those injuries happened during the game or while participating in the sport. Co-participants cannot be held responsible for injury because when the injured party chose to participate, they willingly assumed the risk of possibly being injured by the other participants.

Assumption of risk is commonly utilized as a defense in most personal injury and negligence lawsuits. If the plaintiff has assumed such a risk, they cannot recover damages for any harm from the defendant’s conduct. This is true even if the defendant was negligent or reckless and caused the plaintiff’s injuries.

To demonstrate the assumption of risk doctrine, the defendant must display that the plaintiff had actual knowledge of the danger involved in the conduct or activity. In sports injury lawsuits, the defendant would need to demonstrate that the injured party was conscious of potential injuries associated with the sport they are participating in.

Further, the defendant must demonstrate that the plaintiff willingly accepted the risk. This would be done through an agreement, such as a consent waiver, or implied by their words and behavior. It is also typically necessary to establish that the danger was obvious or that the nature of the conduct was innately unsafe.

Can I Sue for a Recreational or Sports Injury?

You may be able to sue depending on how the injury happened and if you signed a consent form. A consent form is a waiver releasing the organization or individual from liability if an injury happens.

In some circumstances, an injured person who has given their consent by signing a waiver may be precluded from recovering compensation for any injury suffered.

A person who sustains a sports injury may occasionally be able to sue an organization or person for their negligence in the causation of the injury. Negligence is the failure to use ordinary care a person in similar circumstances would use.

The elements of negligence are:

  • Duty: the defendant owed a duty of care to the injured party, such as the duty to follow the rules of the sport
  • Breach of duty: the defendant breached the duty, such as when they violated the rules of play
  • Causation: the defendant was the actual cause of the person’s injuries
  • Damages: the individual’s injuries can be calculated into monetary amounts

A plaintiff would have to establish each element to win the lawsuit. For example, suppose a basketball player breaches their duty to follow safety rules during play. They may be held liable for injuries if their conduct caused the injuries and the injuries were measurable and calculable.

What Is Consent in a Sports Injury Lawsuit?

Most sports injury lawsuits are based on negligence principles. An injury may happen due to the carelessness of another player or team supervisor, in which the individual disregards their duty of care to the victim. Yet, many sports injury cases also involve the concept of “consent.” This is where the victim agrees to some or most of the dangers associated with playing a certain sport.

For example, when joining a sports team or league, the participant may be instructed to sign a liability waiver or a consent form (release form). This is a document wherein the signer agrees not to sue the team, league, or other players for injuries that happen as a natural course of the game. This is standard for many amateur leagues, particularly those that involve light to heavy contact.

What Do Players Usually Consent To?

Most people consent to the rules of the game and any injuries or losses that arise as a natural course of the game. For example, players who join a youth sports league usually agree not to hold the league or other players liable for injuries considered “normal” for soccer games, such as sprains, twisted ankles, or getting hit in the head with a ball.

Nevertheless, players generally do NOT consent to conduct outside the rules of the game. For example, players and teams typically do not tolerate assaults or violent behavior from other players. A player may hold another party responsible for injuries resulting from an attack or an assault, particularly if the victim did not start or initiate the violent conduct. Depending on the circumstances, these can sometimes be filed under civil assault/battery charges or even under criminal laws.

What If I Am Injured, But I Signed a Consent Form?

If you have signed a consent form or a release waiver, it can occasionally still be possible to recover damages for losses. You should inspect the release waiver or consent form and see what activities and conduct it covers.

If your injury was outside of the scope of the consent form, it might be possible that you have a legal claim on your hands. You may need the help of a legal professional when signing or reviewing a sports activity waiver.

Do I Need a Lawyer If I Suffered a Recreational or Sports Injury?

You may need to contact a personal injury lawyer if you need help resolving whether you can file a lawsuit. A lawyer can explain who was at fault for the injury and how to proceed with the issue. If you have any questions, your lawyer can provide you with guidance for your case.