Effective Sports Risk Management
Most people are familiar with the “Golden Rule” of treating people as you would like to be treated. This rule is considered the most essential basis for human rights. What if there was a golden rule for risk management? What if there were a principle that if followed, would reduce risk significantly and make for a much safer sports and recreation environment? I propose that the golden rule of risk management should be, “watch where you’re going.”
A number of years ago, my marathon club enjoyed a Halloween themed training run. We wore costumes and ran through a graveyard. My friend and I dressed in t-shirts that had pictures of beautiful, fit bodies, wearing bikinis. The great thing about those costumes (besides their obvious appeal to the opposite sex) was that they were easy to run in. I am sure that there were some costumes that would not have been safe and so the coach should certainly have put some restrictions on the costumes of the night. Also, running in the dark is always perilous.
While swimming my usual mile in a lifeguarded pool, I noticed something horrifying---at least to my safety trained eyes. The lifeguard had his cell phone in hand and appeared to be texting! He did this while small children and adults swam at their own peril. The scene was less dramatic than it might appear. Swim lessons were taking up half the lanes and there was an instructor in the pool for every few children. Parents filled the stands as well, some of them also focusing more on their cell phones than on their young charges. If texting while driving is dangerous, isn’t supervising children swimming or playing sport equally as hazardous?
Risk management in sport and recreation is of global importance. Not all countries are as litigious as the United States, but they still have real concerns about managing risk and promoting safety. Athletes, facility owners, event directors, facility managers, coaches, sponsors and fans all share an interest in risk management and safety. For example, if a football (soccer) player trips over a protruding object in the field, causing injury to his knee, that means that the athlete will require medical treatment and may be forced to sit out the remainder of a practice, a game, several games or maybe even a season.
Overtraining is a common problem with too many coaches and athletes failing to recognize symptoms of an over-trained athlete: fatigue, insomnia, incomplete workouts, illness, decline in performance, pain or soreness, decreased appetite and irritability. Rest from physiological and psychological demands of training is important to an athlete’s performance.
About 15 years ago, I was running on a treadmill in a very exclusive health club when I suddenly flew off the machine, cutting my leg in the process. I’m not sure if the tread on the machine was worn out or if I stepped in a way that contributed to the mishap. Nevertheless, I suffered a bloody gash in my leg that required some minor first aid. There were quite a few horrified witnesses, but no gym staff to be found. I wandered the club, hoping to find an employee. Eventually, I came upon a staff member in an office adjacent to the weight room. His response to the incident was to give me 2 small bandages. I was not asked to fill out an incident report of any kind. There was also no special attention given to the wound. No questions were asked about how the incident happened.
Last night, I swam a mile at the YMCA as I try to do at least 3 times each week. A fellow attorney, Mike Wong, was swimming in the lane next to me. I asked Mike how the Waikiki Rough Water 2.4 mile swim went on Labor Day. Mike said that he was pleased with his swim, but was more interested in telling me about a relay that his team had swum in the Molokai Chanel. He described the rough water and then, said with an apparent twinkle in his goggle covered eye that “one of our colleagues showed up”. It didn’t take long before I caught on. “You mean a shark?” I asked. “Yes, a 14 foot….” He replied. I didn’t catch the make and model of the shark as I was so amused by his reference to the shark as our colleague.
While watching a college soccer match I was reminded of the importance of having a strong head official. I watched one team play dirty because they were clearly outmatched by the technical footwork of their opponents. The head referee set the tone of intolerance against dirty playing early in the game by giving out a yellow card within the first several minutes of play. Furthermore, he was consistent in his calls throughout the match.
University of Hawaii Warriors did well in their football season opener against USC. Although they lost 49 to 36, they certainly held their own. Unfortunately, UH starting quarterback Bryant Moniz suffered a hard hit on the helmet in the third quarter. This seemed very serious to me and I was certainly concerned about whether Moniz would be medically cleared to fly to the East Coast to play their next game against Army. All that I heard on the news was that Moniz sustained a “possible head injury” or an “apparent head injury”. No one was saying that he had a concussion, because to do so might have meant benching Moniz even if it turned out that he did not. Apparently, medical clearance in such instances can take a week or more and this can certainly impact an athlete’s season.
I was told a surprising story by a woman recalling a childhood experience with a former coach. Her coach tried an unusual tactic to motivate athletes: if an athlete failed to perform, the coach would dump some of the contents from an athlete's water bottle. Thus, as punishment, the coach took away water, a critical element for an athlete's health and overall performance.