Personal Injury Liability in Sport: Emerging Trends

Jack Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Violent play during the course of a game or sport is not a new phenomenon; accompanying legal proceedings are. This article considers personal injury liability for injuries inflicted by a participant upon an opponent during a sporting pursuit. The jurisdictional focus is on England and Wales. The sporting emphasis of the article is on competitive, body contact games. The legal emphasis is on the tort of negligence. Analogous to the law of criminal assault, breach of "implied sporting consent" or the volenti of the claimant will be seen as central in application, as assessed through a number of objective criteria, including the skill level of the injuring party and whether that defendant was acting in "reckless disregard" of the claimant's safety. These criteria or evidential guidelines, which emerge from a careful doctrinal analysis of the relevant case law, are seen as crucial to the examination of the appropriate degree of care in negligence within the prevailing circumstances of sport. The article also searches for some theoretical coherency within the case law, premising it on Fletcher's idea of reciprocal risk-taking. In addition, the underlying policy-related issue of sport's social utility is discussed, as are practical matters relating to vicarious liability, insurance and the measure of damages for "lost sporting opportunity". Moreover, it will be shown that personal injury claims relating to sports participant liability now extend to a consideration of the duties of coaches, referees, sports governing bodies and schools. Finally, this article is set against the backdrop of an apparently spiralling "compensation culture" and the concomitant threat that that "blame culture" poses for the future promotion, operation and administration of sport.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-119
Number of pages25
JournalTort Law Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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