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The Intersection of Sports and TBIs: Legal Considerations in Head Injury Cases


A doctor examining an athlete after a head injury.

Car accidents, construction site accidents, and slips and falls are just some of the ways Florida residents can suffer blunt-force trauma to the head. This trauma can, in turn, lead to traumatic brain injuries. The Brain Trauma Foundation estimates that as many as 2.5 million people in America are diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury every year.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that one out of every two traumatic brain injuries is the result of either a fall or a vehicle crash — while the third-most common way of sustaining a TBI is being struck by or hitting another object.

For both athletes and parents of child athletes, this cause is of particular concern and can play a key role in head injury cases.

Sports and Blunt Force Head Trauma

Popular sports like football, soccer, baseball, and basketball all require participants to wear certain protective gear. Not all sports require athletes to wear head protection, presumably because the risk of head trauma from playing the sport is considered low.

However, nearly every sport presents some risk of a blow to the head in the following ways:

  • Baseball players can be hit by errant pitches and flying bats
  • Soccer players can use their head to hit a soccer ball or run into other players
  • Basketball players may accidentally collide with other players on the court
  • Football players repeatedly collide head-first with other players

Some of the collisions and incidents of head trauma result in the loss of consciousness, which is a telltale sign of a traumatic brain injury. However, players who experience dizziness, headaches, or a ringing in the ears following a sports-related head blow may also have suffered a traumatic brain injury.

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) and Sports

In recent years, increasing attention has been given not just to one-time traumatic blows to the head but also to the cumulative effect of many small blows and traumas. While any one of these blows might seem benign, over time, their effect can build and lead to a degenerative condition known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

This condition was first studied in boxers but has also been linked to football players.

Obstacles in Obtaining Compensation for Sports TBI Victims

In any other setting, a person or company who places you in a situation where you are likely to sustain head trauma can face legal liability if you do suffer a TBI. To avoid liability, the party must take reasonable measures to warn you about the danger and provide you with adequate protection.

However, holding someone responsible for a sports-related TBI has proven more challenging because of a legal doctrine known as assumption of risk. Assumption of risk prevents an injury victim from recovering damages when they are harmed by an activity in which they voluntarily participated while knowing the risks associated.

For example, before an adult or child can participate in any organized sports league, the league or organization will typically require the player or the player’s parent to sign a release.

While the wording of these releases differs from organization to organization, they generally identify the risk of injury a player faces by participating in the sport and a declaration that by signing the release, the signer is assuming the risk that they could be harmed.

Exceptions to the Assumption of Risk

Although sports participants generally assume the risk of playing in their sport, the assumption of risk does not absolve individuals from all liability. For example, your TBI lawyer may be successful in obtaining compensation due to these considerations:

  • Teams or leagues should ensure players have adequate safety gear before allowing them to play
  • Waivers of liability should describe the danger of head trauma with some specificity, such as by indicating how head injuries could occur
  • Assumption of risk may not protect a defendant from liability if the head trauma occurs while playing a sport with a low risk of this injury, such as badminton
  • The assumption of risk doctrine does not protect someone from liability for intentionally causing a head injury to another person

So, while sports participants can expect a difficult road to recovering compensation if they sustain a TBI while playing certain sports, the path to compensation is not completely closed.

How a Florida TBI Lawyer Can Help

If you or your child sustained a head injury while playing a sport, it is essential that you understand your options by speaking with a skilled TBI attorney from the Schrier Law Group. Our knowledgeable Florida TBI lawyers can review the facts of your situation and determine what rights you may have to compensation.

Contact us to schedule a consultation to discuss your traumatic brain injury case today.