Hockey Injuries sometimes Exceed the Normal Risks of the Game

Posted by Injury Lawyers of Ontario on February 17, 2016

Ask any hockey coach and he will tell you that hockey injuries are "part of the game". No one will argue that hockey is a high-contact sport and injuries often occur, sometimes serious ones. Violent, high-speed collisions amongst players and "checking" another player by deliberately skating into them happen almost every play and can cause injuries to the head and neck, whiplash, concussions, broken bones and sprained joints.

Having played the sport for most of their lives, university and professional athletes are usually aware that there is a potential for severe injuries and even death under certain extreme situations while playing contact sports like hockey. Adults may assume the risk in return for potential or present earnings. While paid very little if anything, many junior league hockey players dream of someday making a professional team and the big payday it brings.  While some injuries are considered part of the normal risks of the game, there are circumstances wherein someone is seriously injured in an unsafe situation that could not have been anticipated by the player and/or should not have been allowed by those responsible for organizing or hosting a game. 

Knowing who would be financially liable for a severe injury during hockey game or practice is the first step in seeking financial compensation. Before you step onto the ice or let your youngster play youth hockey, find out what association governs the league and ask to review the insurance coverage. There are often overlapping insurance coverages where compensation can be sought. Another source of insurance may be from the venue where the sport is being played. If the practice or game is at a public arena, the municipality may also be liable for injuries that are outside the normal risks of the game. Finally, a corporate team sponsor may be liable for compensating those injured while playing for the team or in the arena that carries their name.

The topic of sports injuries must foremost consider children and young adults who are particularly vulnerable and not capable of making the same measured decisions concerning their own safety, as we expect from adults.  Often, children are put under tremendous pressure by parents, coaches and their peers to perform in a sport, in exchange for acceptance by their peer group or others, sometimes despite the fact that they are undersized or lack the talent or ambition to play. Some young people have medical conditions such as asthma or previous injuries that place them at higher than normal risk of severe injury when participating in contact sports.  Also, children and even young adults can lack the maturity to make wise decisions regarding the risks of participating in a dangerous physical activity. Coaches know that playing hockey can be dangerous and the potential for injury should be communicated clearly to players and parents of young players to make them aware of the risks. 

Pre-Existing Medical Issues
It is important to determine in advance who makes the decision as to who is or isn't medically fit to compete. A youth's size and age are factors that need to be analyzed as well. An athlete's prior medical history is an important factor in determining whether or not the player is physically fit to compete. A Canadian youth hockey player recently filed a 12 million dollar lawsuit claiming his traumatic brain injury was caused in large part by returning to action too soon, only 10 days after a serious car accident had left him unconscious. The lawsuit filed by Barrie Colts goalie John Chartrand alleges the team's medical doctors and team officials cleared him to play in games too soon after the accident. The automobile accident left Chartrand unconscious with a severe concussion and he had to be extracted by rescue personnel with the jaws of life. Less than two weeks later he was back on the ice.

Routine Hockey fight or Assault and Battery with a deadly weapon?
Critics of violence in the culture of Canadian ice hockey are quick to quip " I went to a boxing match and a hockey game broke out." While obviously joking, the statement is not too far from the truth. Who among us hasn't watched a hockey game at any level where the referees didn't step away and let two players fight it out? Most hockey fights are one-handed punch outs where participants suffer only a bloody nose or a black eye. But sometimes the injuries sustained in a hockey fight can be much more serious, even life threatening. Getting cross-checked to the neck or head can cause whiplash and can knock the helmet off a player causing them to fall and violently strike their head on the ice.

If you have a child who has suffered a severe injury while playing organized youth hockey, or if you were injured while playing hockey or another organised sport, call the Injury Lawyers of Ontario (ILO) Group. Our sports injury lawyers will provide you with expert advice and representation in a claim for damages against the insurer(s) of the various parties who were negligent in the accident, which may include a coach, arena, equipment manufacturer and/or corporate sponsors, depending on the circumstances of the accident. 

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