Effective Sports Risk Management
If you have watched the movie, Concussion, starring Will Smith, you might have some concern about whether you or your child should participate in sports activities or stay inside with your heads wrapped in bubble wrap. These questions are at the heart of risk management, which is the process of keeping athletes safe and protecting organizations from lawsuits.
Despite concussion risks, the value of the free play of sports in our society is significant. This has become even more clear during the pandemic as kids and adults have been prohibited from engaging in their usual activities and many sports and recreation activities were limited or shut down for many months. The world’s reaction to Covid-19 is an excellent example of risk management. The consistent message has been masking, handwashing, social distancing, and vaccination. With concussions, there is a need for consistent risk management messaging as well.
The litigation process can be intimidating to anyone who is not an attorney, expert witness, or frequent party to lawsuits. Much of the literature in risk management that addresses this process is more academic than practical. The following description is based on actual litigation experience. Please note that this process may vary from state to state.
Every organization should have an incident report form available for personnel to fill out shortly after a person reports an injury. Incident reports should contain the following information:
One of the best sport classes my son participated in was a sports sampling course. One week was spent playing tennis, the next soccer, the next basketball, the next baseball. In this class, young children worked on the basics of the skills required for each sport but the main purpose of the class was to develop gross motor skills in a fun way that kept the kids interest. I was thrilled to have my son participate in this developmentally appropriate approach.
When it comes to my own children I try to protect their image. I am concerned for how photos of them might be distributed or used and I value the privacy of my family. As such, I do not post pictures of my children on my social media and I deny my permission to organizations that ask to use images of my children for marketing purposes. Generally speaking, though, these organizations may not be required to ask for my permission on whether they can take their picture or how they use photos they take.
It is always disturbing to learn of the occurrence of abuse in sport. Abuse can come in many forms: sexual, physical, and emotional. Coaches, teachers, instructors, staff, volunteers, medical personnel, fellow athletes and others who have access may perpetrate an abuse. Youth especially need protection, since they are a particularly vulnerable population. Consequentially, abuse is damaging. So how can we prevent abuse in sports?
For recreational sport, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends to avoid travel or competition with persons outside of a particular locality. If athletes do travel outside of their local community, they should consider the following:
Many sports organizations are revising or writing a policy for if or how transgender persons may participate in sport. The primary concern is for fairness. If a biological male competes as a female that person may have an unfair competitive advantage. Out of concern for fairness, this usually means that transwomen (MTF – male to female) may have to jump through more hoops than transmen (FTM – female to male) in order to compete as a female.
There are multiple things to consider when drafting a policy for transgender participation. Below are some ideas to help you get started.
Growing up did your family have a plan in case of emergencies? As a kid if an emergency prevented my parents from picking me up from my sports practice, they would ask a trusted adult to communicate our family password when he or she came to get me. That password let me know that it was safe and that my parents wanted me to get in the car with that person. As an adult now, my family has a reunification meeting strategy. Should a fire or other natural disaster prevent us from reuniting at our home, we have designated meeting locations to find each other. These simple planned strategies for emergencies can help keep our families safe. Emergency action plans for your sports organization are just as important.
Every sport and recreation organization will face risks. Risks can be viewed as potential hazards that may cause harm to a person or to property. Any harm that is incurred in connection to a sport and recreation organization may expose that organization to litigation, bad publicity, or financial or criminal sanctions. Risk management is making a decision on what to do about the risks that your organization faces. If you successfully control your risks through risk management, there can be some advantages to your organization.