When and how to seek compensation for your child’s sports injury
Youth sports have gained immense popularity both in Florida and across the United States, offering a range of benefits that go well beyond the playing field. Participation in organized sports from a young age can foster crucial life skills such as teamwork, discipline and resilience.
The health advantages are equally compelling; regular physical activity helps children improve their cardiovascular health, build strong bones and muscles, and maintain a healthy weight. The psychological boosts are significant too, with young athletes often reporting higher levels of self-esteem and confidence.
However, the world of youth sports is not without its risks. Each year, millions of kids sustain injuries, ranging from minor sprains to more severe conditions, which cause them to miss out on participation and, in some cases, even lead to life-altering injuries and fatalities.
While some of these injuries are an inherent risk of engaging in athletic activities, others may arise from negligence, such as inadequate coaching, poorly maintained facilities or insufficient safety measures.
This article will examine the details surrounding youth sports injuries, including when they occur, how they happen, and, crucially, when and from whom you may be able to seek compensation if your child suffers an injury.
Surprising youth sports injury statistics
According to the nonprofit organization Safe Kids Worldwide, whose goal is to educate families and communities about injury prevention in childhood, more than 46 million U.S. kids participate in sports annually. Of the kids that play a team sport, about 1 in 3 suffer injuries that cause them to miss at least 1 practice or game.
Another notable fact: The majority of injuries (almost two-thirds) that happen while kids are playing organized sports occur during practice (not during a game).
What are the most dangerous sports for kids?
In terms of which sports cause the most injuries to children, it probably comes as no surprise that football ranks number 1. But you may be surprised by how many injuries occur in other youth sports.
According to data from the National Safety Council, the sports that caused the most injuries leading to emergency room visits in 2022 involving children between the ages of 5 and 14 included the following:
- Football with 145,499 injuries
- Basketball with 109,696 injuries
- Soccer with 80,540 injuries
- Baseball and softball with 61,336 injuries
- Lacrosse, rugby and misc ball games with 20,252 injuries
- Volleyball with 16,923 injuries
- Hockey with 10,967 injuries
- Track and field sports with 9,504 injuries
- Martial arts with 9,288 injuries
- Gulf with 9,166 injuries
- Racket sports with 2,901 injuries
- Boxing with 2,017 injuries
While these sports do carry risks, it’s worth noting that proper coaching, quality equipment, and appropriate protocols from schools and athletic directors can go a long way in minimizing injuries.
What are the most common injuries in youth sports?
According to an article by Stanford Medicine Children’s Health, about a third of all childhood injuries are related to sports, with muscle sprains and strains being the most common types of injuries.
Other common injuries include the following:
- Concussions and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). These are particularly prevalent in contact sports like football and soccer. A concussion can cause an array of symptoms, from headaches to disorientation, while TBIs can cause permanent damage and even death.
- Spinal cord injuries. While less common, spinal cord injuries can be severe and life-altering. These often occur in sports involving high-impact and collision activities like wrestling and gymnastics.
- Bone or growth plate injuries. Growth plates are soft areas that exist at the ends of the long bones in children and adolescents. Injuries to these areas can affect bone growth and are often seen in sports like basketball and baseball.
- Fractures. Broken bones are common in many sports, especially those that involve running, jumping or physical contact.
- Repetitive motion injuries. Overuse of specific muscles can lead to injuries like tendonitis and stress fractures. Sports like swimming and tennis often lead to these types of injuries.
- Shoulder dislocations. These are common in sports that involve overhead motions, such as volleyball and swimming.
- Shin splints. Frequently seen in running and jumping sports, shin splints cause pain along the shin bone and are often the result of overuse or improper technique.
- Torn ACLs. This knee injury is surprisingly prevalent among young female athletes, occurring 8 times more often in girls than boys. They’re common in sports like soccer and basketball that involve sudden changes in direction.
- Runner’s knee (patellofemoral pain syndrome) and Osgood-Schlatter disease. These overuse injuries affect the knee area and are common in running and jumping sports. Osgood-Schlatter disease, in particular, affects the growth plate just below the kneecap and is often seen in adolescents.
- Heat-related illnesses. Especially relevant in warmer climates like Florida, heat-related illnesses like heat exhaustion or heat stroke can occur in any sport but are particularly prevalent in endurance sports like long-distance running and football.
Being aware of these common injuries can help in both prevention and timely treatment, reducing the risk of long-term damage.
Heat-related deaths and illnesses among youth athletes are on the rise
According to an article published in The Conversation, over the past 25 years, at least 50 high school football players in the U.S. have died from heat stroke, and female cross-country athletes are also particularly susceptible to heat-related illnesses.
In addition to rising temperatures due to climate change, the issue is exacerbated by the lack of proper heat policies in youth sports leagues and school districts. The greatest number of heat-related illnesses occur in August, which coincides with the back-to-school and sports seasons.
Legal challenges related to heat illnesses are on the rise, often citing negligence and even child endangerment or wrongful death. These lawsuits are often successful, given the preventable nature of heat-related injuries. Until coaches, schools and league organizers start to enforce proper heat policies, hydrate athletes adequately, and perhaps restructure sports programs to adapt to the changing climate, these tragic deaths will likely continue.
When can I sue for my child’s sports injury?
While participating in a youth sport like peewee football inevitably comes with inherent risks, it’s important to note that parents may have legal options if their child’s injury was caused by someone else’s negligence or by a failure to take reasonable precautions to prevent the injury.
While waivers and consent forms can sometimes limit the liability of the organization, they do not absolve all responsibility, especially in cases of gross negligence or intentional misconduct.
Below are some scenarios that could give rise to a potential lawsuit after an injury playing youth sports:
- Unsafe premises. If the sporting facility was in a dangerous condition—such as wet floors, uneven playing surfaces, or poorly maintained grounds or equipment—the property owner might be held responsible for any injury that resulted.
- Inadequate medical care. If your child was not properly treated on-site or was not referred for medical care in a timely manner after the injury, this could potentially be grounds for a suit. Additionally, if your child was seen by a doctor who cleared them to return to play and they suffered further injury, the doctor may be liable for medical negligence.
- Faulty or defective equipment. If the injury was caused by equipment that was improperly maintained or was inherently faulty, the manufacturer or organization could potentially be held liable.
- Failure to implement safety protocols. If an organization did not adhere to established safety rules and guidelines, it could be held liable for injuries that occurred.
- Negligence by the coaching staff or organizers. If the injury occurred because of inadequate supervision, poor training or failure to provide necessary safety equipment, you might have a case.
Who may be liable after an injury playing youth sports?
Common parties that may be legally responsible if your child is injured while playing sports include the following:
- Coaching staff for inadequate supervision, poor training or failure to address unsafe conditions
- School or sports organization for not maintaining safe facilities or equipment
- Equipment manufacturers for producing defective gear
- Other players, if the injury resulted from a particularly reckless or malicious act
- Athletic directors for failing to enforce safety guidelines, properly supervise coaches or ensure safe playing conditions.
- Event organizers for failing to provide adequate medical care or safe conditions
- Doctors for misdiagnosing or improperly treating a sports-related injury
Understanding who may be liable can be complex, so it’s advisable to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney who can assess your specific situation.
What are officials liable for regarding player injuries?
Officials, such as referees, have a duty to enforce the rules of the game, including those that pertain to player safety. Their responsibilities often include stopping play for injuries, calling fouls that involve dangerous or illegal physical contact, and sometimes even ejecting players for egregious behavior that risks the safety of others. In some cases, they might also be responsible for inspecting the playing area or equipment to ensure it meets safety standards.
If an official fails to properly enforce safety rules and this negligence leads to a player’s injury, they could potentially be held liable. For example, if a referee sees a dangerous play that violates the rules but fails to call a foul, and a child is subsequently injured as a result, parents might have a case against the official for negligence.
However, establishing liability in these cases is often complex. Courts generally consider whether the official’s conduct was reasonable under the circumstances and if their failure to act or incorrect action directly led to the injury. An attorney can advise you of your best course of action in these cases.
How do you prove negligence in a youth sports injury case?
While many sports injuries are unavoidable, there are instances where injuries occur due to someone else’s negligence. In such cases, you may be able to file a legal claim to seek compensation for your child’s injuries.
The process of proving negligence in a youth sports injury case can be complex and generally hinges on 4 essential criteria:
- Duty of care. The first step is to establish that the defendant (e.g., coach, school, referee, etc.) owed a duty of care to the injured party. In the context of youth sports, this could mean that coaches are expected to provide adequate training and safety measures or that officials are expected to enforce rules that protect player safety.
- Breach of duty. The second criterion involves showing that the defendant breached their duty of care. This could mean they failed to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of the participants. For example, a coach who ignores the signs of a concussion or fails to provide water breaks during extreme heat could be seen as breaching their duty of care.
- Causation. The third step is to prove that the defendant’s breach of duty directly led to the injury in question. This requires showing a direct link between the defendant’s actions (or lack thereof) and the injury sustained. For example, if a referee failed to stop a game after a dangerous foul and a child was subsequently injured, it must be shown that the failure to stop the game directly caused the injury.
- Damages. Finally, you must be able to demonstrate that the injury resulted in damages, which can be physical, emotional or financial.
Meeting all 4 of these criteria is essential for a successful negligence claim in a youth sports injury case.
What types of compensation are available if my child is injured because of someone else’s negligence while playing youth sports?
If your child is injured while participating in youth sports due to someone else’s negligence, various types of compensation may be available to you, depending on the specifics of your case. The aim of this compensation is to make the injured party “whole” again, at least financially.
Here’s an overview of what your child and family may be eligible for if you’re successful in a personal injury lawsuit:
- Medical expenses. This compensation covers the cost of medical treatment for your child’s injuries, including hospital stays, surgeries, medication, and any future medical costs that may arise due to the injury.
- Rehabilitation and therapy costs. If your child needs physical or occupational therapy to recover from the injury, those costs may be covered as well.
- Pain and suffering and emotional distress. This category includes compensation for physical pain and emotional distress your child may endure as a result of the injury. While difficult to quantify, this is an important aspect to consider.
- Loss of enjoyment of life. If the injury is severe enough to permanently diminish your child’s ability to enjoy activities they once loved, compensation may be available.
- Loss of earning potential. For severe injuries that may affect your child’s future ability to earn a living, you might be able to seek compensation for lost earning potential.
- Punitive damages. In cases where the defendant’s conduct was especially egregious, you may be awarded punitive damages in addition to actual damages. These are designed to punish the wrongdoer and serve as a deterrent for similar actions in the future.
It’s essential to consult with a qualified attorney to understand the types and amount of compensation that may be available in your child’s unique situation.
Contact an experienced Tampa personal injury attorney
In light of the growing risks associated with youth sports, particularly heat-related illnesses and injuries, it’s crucial for families to take proactive measures to protect their children. However, if you believe your child has suffered an injury due to someone else’s negligence, it may be time to consult with a legal expert.
The experienced Tampa personal injury attorneys at Lorenzo & Lorenzo can help you navigate the complicated legal process, providing invaluable advice on how to prove negligence and maximize your claim. We can also assist you in identifying who may be liable, whether it’s coaches, league organizers, school officials or even health care providers, so your family can get the compensation you deserve.
Ensuring the well-being and safety of your children should be everyone’s priority, and legal action can be a necessary step in holding responsible parties accountable.
Contact our office today for a free consultation to learn more about your child’s rights.
Murfree, J. R., & Brison, N. (n.d.). Heat risk and young athletes — rising temperatures lead to lawsuits and environmental injustice. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/heat-risk-and-young-athletes-rising-temperatures-lead-to-lawsuits-and-environmental-injustice-185189
Preventing Sports-Related Injuries. (n.d.). Safe Kids Worldwide. https://www.safekids.org/preventing-sports-related-injuries
Sports and Recreational Injuries. (n.d.). Injury Facts. https://injuryfacts.nsc.org/home-and-community/safety-topics/sports-and-recreational-injuries/
Stanford Children’s Health. (2009). Stanford Children’s Health. Stanfordchildrens.org. https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=sports-injury-statistics-90-P02787