According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “More than 2.6 million children 0-19 years old are treated in the emergency department each year for sports and recreation-related injuries.” Some of the most common sports injuries include sprains and strains, broken bones, scrapes and bruises, and concussions.
Of course, this risk is part of the game: you never know when something might go wrong, resulting in an injury. However, given the large number of precautions you can take in all sports and activities to limit that risk, it’s important to consider the coach’s responsibility to keep players as safe as possible.
What Is the Coach’s Role in Preventing Youth Sports Injuries?
Coaches are required to do the following for young athletes:
- Create a safe environment
- Use up-to-date information and instruction methods
- Use safe, properly fitting equipment
- Plan an appropriate training program and game schedule
- Match athletes by size, experience, and ability
- Adequately supervise athletes at all games and practices
- Share information with parents and athletes about potential risks
- Take note of each athlete’s well-being and readiness to play
- Provide emergency care
How Might a Coach Fail to Protect the Athletes?
Let’s look at a few examples. The coach could be held liable if an athlete suffers an injury in situations like these:
- The coach insists on practicing in a hail storm.
- The players wear ill-fitting or worn out protective gear.
- Third-grade athletes play a game against seventh-grade athletes.
- The coach doesn’t follow a progressive training plan for the athletes.
- The coach doesn’t offer first aid or call 911 after an accident that causes a potentially serious injury.
What Happens If Coaching Negligence Results in Injury?
“Chris Thompson, a football player for West Seattle (Washington) High School, was paralyzed in a football game when he lowered his head and tackled an opponent, severing his spinal cord. The coach and school district were sued on the grounds that the coach should have warned Chris about the dangers of tackling with his head down. The court ruled in favor of Chris…”
This case occurred in 1975, and represents an extreme example; however, coaches are responsible for the well-being of their athletes, and must take all possible precautions to prevent injury. Even youth sports can be highly dangerous, and it’s the responsibility of academic officials like coaches to protect vulnerable student-athletes.
Naturally, coaches want to win games, but their athletes should come first. If you think your child’s coach goes too far by ignoring injuries, asking athletes to play despite their injuries, or insisting upon practicing or playing a game in an unsafe environment, speak to the coach about your concern for the athletes’ safety, and bring the issue to the attention of a supervisor or administrator.
As common as youth sports injuries are, you must consider the circumstances in which the injury occurred to determine whether or not a coach’s action or inaction contributed to the injury or its severity. Often, this can be a difficult task; an attorney experienced in student-athlete injuries can review the facts of your case, determine potential liability, and counsel you on the proper course of action.
Please contact us online or call (503) 245-5677 for a free consultation. Coaches are important members of the community and their dedication to players is commendable, but not all coaches are created equal; anyone who causes injury to another person must be held responsible, particularly when the victim is one of our young and vulnerable student-athletes.