Injuries are part and parcel of most sporting activities. It is a common sight to see players limp off the field regardless of the sport being played. From football to rugby to tennis, injuries are an everyday occurrence. For the most part, they will go largely unnoticed, for example, who is really that concerned if someone tweaks a hamstring or calf? However, certain incidents live long in the memory either through the shocking conduct of one player to another or the sickening aftermath on the player affected.
The general rule is that you are unable to claim compensation for injuries sustained during sports activities because such injuries are “expected and accepted” by participants within the ordinary rules of the game. Now that is fairly clear cut with muscular injuries where a player simply overreaches or extends. However, what if you are injured in a tackle playing football or rugby? Well, simply put, you cannot claim if your injury was caused by a legal tackle from another player. Let’s be honest, that is an entirely reasonable suggestion – it would be impractical and absurd to suggest that every minor bruise sustained playing sport is actionable. Unsurprisingly, however, the question of what is a “legal” tackle can be debated!
The history of football is littered with famous “bad” tackles, from Roy Keane’s career-ending horror tackle on Alf Inge Haaland, Martin Taylor’s leg-breaker on Arsenal’s Eduardo da Silva or, more recently, Luke Shaw’s sickening double leg break. Rugby has a similarly violent history from the infamous Tana Umaga spear tackle on Brian O’Driscoll in 2005 to the legendary “99” call in 1974. Many of these incidents can easily be suggested to be “illegal” tackles.
As with any claim in Scotland, there are a number of basic principles to bear in mind: firstly, a duty of care must exist; secondly, another person’s act caused harm and thirdly; that act was either deliberate or negligent. Unsurprisingly, all players owe each other a duty of care when engaging in lawful sports competition but, determining whether a particular action by a player was deliberate or, indeed, even negligent can prove tricky. In effect, only injuries resulting from conduct that is within accepted sports rules will be immune from a claim for compensation. Following the case of Sharpe v Highland and Islands Fire Board, it is well established that when considering whether any actions amount to a breach of duty, the conduct will be measured against the standard of skill which might be expected of a reasonable sportsperson.
It has been established by the Courts that different standards of reasonableness apply to conduct at different levels. So, although you might want to play like Messi in your Thursday night five-a-side match, don’t expect to receive the same protection as Messi!
If you’ve been injured in an accident whilst playing sport, Talk to Thompsons Solicitors on 0800 089 1331 as soon as possible.