Sports violence is generally defined as any conduct by a player that is meant to intentionally injure another player, and which occurs outside the scope of the rules for that particular sport. 

Heavy physical contact is an integral part of some sports, such as boxing, wrestling, mixed martial arts (“MMA”), hockey, rugby, and water polo.  In such sports, some degree of physical contact is expected, and can actually be considered “part of the game.” 

But even for such sports, there are formal and unspoken rules as to what is considered appropriate in terms of force.  Any conduct outside these rules can be considered sports violence, especially if it is done with the intent to injure or eliminate a player from a game. Sports violence injury lawsuits can result in a damages award to compensate the victim for their losses. In serious cases, assault charges may also result.

What Are Some Examples of Sports Violence?

There are many different examples of sports violence. These can vary according to each individual sport; however, some generally unacceptable conduct can include:

  • Hitting, striking, or tackling a player outside of normal game time (i.e., before or after the bell or whistle)
  • Engaging in fist-fighting (in non-combat sports)
  • Using force that isn’t listed as acceptable for that sport; also known as “cheapshots” (such as eye-gouging or shots to the groin)
  • Using unauthorized implements to injure, maim, or incapacitate another player
  • Utilizing moves or techniques that are illegal or have been outlawed in that sport

In general, using physically harmful conduct that a reasonable player would not consent to in the game may be considered sports violence. Legal determinations for sports violence are easier applied to formal, organized sports; however, sports violence concepts can often be applied to lawsuits involving semi-formal or even casual “pick-up” games. 

Who Can Be Held Liable for Sports Violence?

Generally speaking, it is the player who used the violent force that is held liable for sports violence injuries. Organized sports leagues don’t allow violence or unnecessary roughness, and so the majority of the time, sports violence is the result of a player’s poor decision or frustration. 

However, in particularly egregious cases, sports leagues, referees, and even coaches can sometimes be liable for allowing sports violence. For example, if a coach encourages the use of violence, they may be held liable for injuries caused by their instructions. 

Generally speaking, the liable party must have caused measurable injury to the victim in order to be held liable. Claims for imaginary or for injuries that can’t be calculated are often dismissed in a court of law.

What If I’ve Signed a Consent Form?

Most sports leagues require all participants to sign a consent form or a liability waiver. This is a document wherein the player consents to any injuries resulting from the normal course of the game; the form may also state that the player will not sue the league if they incur any injuries during the game. 

Thus, most consent forms only apply to injuries that are a normal part of the game. An injured player may still be able to sue a co-player for injuries attributed to sports violence. In most cases, this will result in a civil lawsuit for damages; but in some cases, criminal charges may be applied for intentional and malicious conduct.

Do I Need a Personal Injury Lawyer?

Lawsuits involving sports violence can be very challenging to handle. They often involve much analysis over the incidents that occurred, and may require complex damages calculations. It’s in your best interests to work with a qualified personal injury lawyer in your area if you have a claim for sports violence. Your lawyer can help represent you in court and will be able to advise you on the details of the legal process.