Injuries in sport

Injuries often occur in circumstances completely outside of our control.

In some instances however, injuries can occur during the course of an event that we voluntarily take part in, where we are aware that there is a risk that we could be hurt. – In these cases, it is not always possible that compensation can be claimed if we suffer an injury.

As a society, we voluntarily play sports such as rugby, hockey and boxing and attend events including motor racing, horse racing and cricket. – There are known risks associated with each of these activities that could see a participant or spectator being harmed. – It is clear from the start.

In English law, there is a strong defence against claims for compensation for injuries sustained in these circumstances. It is known as ‘Volenti non fit injuria’ which basically means “to a willing person, injury is not done’.

Examples of where this is apparent in the sports mentioned above are:

  • In the event a boxer sustains injuries from punches from his opponent, s/he cannot claim for them. If however their opponent was to hit them with a weapon then s/he could make a claim.
  • If a cricketer is hit in the face by a ball in the course of play, he/she cannot claim for that but if it was deliberately thrown at their face s/he could.
  • During a rugby game, if a player fractured his/her leg during a legal tackle, then s/he is unlikely to successfully claim. However, if an injury was caused by a tackle that was so illegal that it was beyond the reasonable expectation of the game, then this could generate a claim.

It is vital that when an incident does occur, claims are fully investigated and examined carefully. – Event organisers need to ensure that other users of the facilities in question are safe and not at risk of harm. A boxer who is injured because the ring is unsafe could make a claim. A rugby player who is injured because his head guard is faulty could do. Spectators who are injured because a stand collapses could sue.

In instances where a spectator of a sport is injured by a ball that is hit over the boundary ‘lines’, it is likely the defendants will defend the claim . They would say that the risk that a ball could be hit further than the field of play is apparent throughout the match. This risk is real and present throughout, and by attending the match – they defendants will say – the spectator consents to waive their rights to sue.

To succeed in this type of defence the defendant has to show that the injured person was fully aware of all the risks involved in participating/spectating in an activity, including both the nature and the extent of the risk, and that by their actions or words, consented to waive any claim for any injury that might occur.

The Action brought by the lady who has been injured at The Ryder Cup is an example of how the areas of law can overlap. Her lawyers may argue that the circumstances in which she was injured were due to the course organisers being negligent in the way they organised the spectating area. They will argue that “Volenti non fit injuria’ does not apply here.

If you have suffered a serious injury and would like to discuss a potential claim, please contact the Price Slater Gawne team on 0161 6155554, by email to or by visiting our Altrincham office.