Participation in School Sports may result in “impairment to … generally enjoy life.”

I recently read a blog post on the redtape chronicles by Mnsbc.com about a sports waiver for student track & field athletes in a high school program, and the fine print that included this disclaimer, “Competing in track & field may result not only in serious injury but a serious impairment of my future abilities … generally to enjoy life.”   Seriously? I thought this first a joke, (no it wasn’t), then dug a little deeper and discovered this statement, or disclaimer is appearing in sports waivers in high school sports programs (not only track & field) across the country [United States].

Here’s just of few (there were many) examples found on the Internet:

  • Wilbur Creston School Districts, Track & Field. This waiver is pretty much about signing your (that is your child’s) life away. Blunt, to-the-point and no candy coating for sure. Here’s an excerpt.

I am aware that track and field is a high-risk sport and that practicing or competing in track and field will be a dangerous activity involving MANY RISKS OF INJURY. …I understand that the dangers and risks of practicing or competing in track and field may result not only in serious injury, but in a serious impairment of my future abilities to earn a living, to engage in other business, social and recreational activities and generally to enjoy life.

  • Seattle Public Schools, Track & Field.  This school district’s waiver, a bit less abrasive in presentation, but still includes the above disclaimer and ….

I am aware that track & field is a high-risk sport and that practicing or competing in track & field will be a dangerous and unpredictable activity involving MANY RISKS OF INJURY. I understand that the dangers and risk of practicing and competing in track & field include, but are not limited to, death, serious neck and spinal injuries which may result in complete or partial paralysis, brain damage, blindness, serious injury to virtually all internal organs, serious injury to virtually all bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, tendons and other aspects of my body, general health and well-being…

  • Eastmont School District
  • Santiago College Canyon School Athletics.
  • Vista Unified School District
  • Sequim School District. Baseball/Fastpitch

Why the Fine Print?
The list continues and goes well beyond the schools listed and includes not just track & field, but baseball and other sports —  I need not add more to make the point.  This ‘fine print’ disclaimer, (though the schools appear to do away with the subtleties and use big print, and in some cases bold), is based upon a landmark case in 1985, where a ruling in a Illinois federal court called for compensation for damages in wrongful death lawsuit winning “enjoyment of life” compensation for the victim’s family.  From this came a ‘scale’ called the Lost Pleasure of Life scale, which is used by lawyers and courts when ruling for cases involving serious injury (or death) in order to calculate monetary compensation.

Unfortunately, because the injuries mentioned in the school forms are a reality, have happened and continue to, with students being paralyzed, injured or death, school districts are obligated to include this language.

How about lost wages from Sports over School?
I understand that school districts need to protect themselves, and limit liability for accidents. But what does this say about our school sports programs? I venture to say that enjoyment of life also extends not to physical injuries, but in other types of cases yet to surface – because of emphasizing sports over school. If a woman can sue McDonald’s for causing obesity, it’s not ‘out there’ for an adult to look back at his or her school time lost due to high school sports participation for tournaments, away games etc, and to sue the school [district] for damages because of lower wages and quality of life, due to missed class-time, study time, and schooling, which affected grades, SAT scores which in turn affected college choice and opportunities etc. This ‘schooling gap’ is more common (thankfully) than the serious injuries that are happening in our programs.

Bottom line, as parents think twice about signing that waiver, not just for the potential (albeit slight) risk, but for quality of life and quality of education.

Photo Credit: Herald Post, Photo by Linda Steil

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