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Coaches: Protect Yourselves from Litigation

As the public becomes more aware of what constitutes negligent behavior, coaches of all age groups need to pay more attention to what they are doing when their athletes become injured. They also need to ensure that they are not placing their athletes at risk for injury or sudden death because of the decisions that they are making. Sacrificing athletes for a win is not an acceptable practice in sports. Claiming "ignorance" is also not a good defense in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. Coaches need to know and understand their sport as well as the areas that can place an athlete at a higher risk for injury. They are also responsible to know basic first aid/CPR in order to provide reasonable care in the event of a potentially serious injury. Failure to do make the right decisions in the even of a medical emergency may result in the coach being found guilty of negligence. What is Negligence? Negligence is the "failure to use ordinary or reasonable care" (Prentice, W., 2010). The standards of reasonable care include the following: Assumes that a person is of ordinary and reasonable prudence Assumes that a person brings a commonsense approach to the situation Assumes that a person will operate within the appropriate limitations of one's own educational background Coaches can be held liable if they perform an act that they are not trained to perform (Act of Commission) or do not perform an act that they are trained to perform (Act of Omission). For example, if an athlete sustains a potentially serious injury and the coach does not treat the injury as such (does not render appropriate emergency first aid, does not call for emergency medical services), and the athlete suffers irreparable injury because of the decision, the coach can be held liable for his/her actions. An illustration of this point is with a wrongful death lawsuit filed in the state of Massachusetts. A 14 year-old cheerleader was stunting during a competition and ruptured her spleen when she fell in to another cheerleader's shoulder. Instead of obtaining immediate medical attention for the injured athlete, the coaches told her to go splash water onto her face and instructed her to raise her arms over her head (www.bostoninjurylawyerblog, 2009). Splashing water onto the face of a critically injured athlete and not calling for medical help would not be considered good or appropriate standard medical care in that situation. Coaches need to fully understand how to render aid to a catatastrophically injured athlete Minibus Hire Broxbourne as well as how to fully develop an emergency action plan for their events. Knowing what to do in a medical emergency may mean the difference between life and death for an athlete.

Guidelines for Coaches Here are some important guidelines to follow to help a coach decrease the risk of a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit: Supervise your athletes constantly and attentively Properly instruct your athletes in the skills of the sport (especially high risk sports such as football and cheerleaders who stunt) Develop and follow an emergency action plan Maintain first aid/CPR/AED certification Do not permit injured players to participate unless cleared by a sports medicine professional Do not allow athletes who may have sustained a head injury to continue to participate Do not diagnose injuries (unless you are medically qualified to do so) Most Common Causes for Lawsuits against Coaches One of the more common causes for wrongful death or personal injury lawsuits in athletics against coaches is when a coach does not respond appropriately to a potentially catastrophic injury. Reasons for the lawsuits include that the coaches did not have emergency action plans in place, they underestimated the severity of the injury, and they did not call emergency medical services.

How Coach es can protec t their Athlet es and thems elves The best advice for coache s is that when a serious injury occurs, the coach needs to stabilize the injured athlete and call for medical help. A wrong decision by a coach at this time can cost the athlete his/her life. It is not the coaches' job to determine how severe an injury is.

It is the coaches' job to recognize when an injury can be potentially severe and respond accordingly. Failure to react appropriately in a medical emergency could result in the loss of life of the athlete as well as a loss of career for the coach. Reference, "Recent Massachusetts Cheerleading Accidents Spur Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Lawsuits", (access on January 18, 2011). Prentice, W.E. (2010). Essentials of Athletic Injury Management. (8th Ed.). McGraw-Hill Higher Education: New York, NY.

Coaches: Protect Yourselves from Litigation  

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