So the World Cup has finally got underway and the nation is gripped with football fever.  Well, some of us.  Even the England team may need a bit of reminding that the competition has started.  On the whole, goals have been pretty easy flowing so far and we look set for a World Cup where draws are the exception.  However, even before the tournament started, injuries have plagued many of the teams including our own squad.  And the injuries will keep coming as is expected in a sport where risks are high. 

It is a player’s worse nightmare to be injured and it is even more frustrating when that injury could have been avoided.  I’m not talking about the type of injury you sustain when jumping on your water bottle celebrating a goal (sorry, Gary Lewin), but rather those sustained when you are on the receiving end of a particularly vicious tackle.  Okay, so the offending player may receive a yellow or red card but that is of little comfort to the injured party.

Most people would expect that these type of risks have to be accepted as just being part of the game and of course some risks are inherent.  However, if a player has been reckless and goes in for a tackle careless of the fact that their actions could lead to serious injury there is a potential there to bring a claim against that player and against that player’s club as his or her employer.  Bringing claims for every day injuries is not the normal course of action and the Football Association will often impose their own penalties for reckless behaviour.  But what if the injury has led to that player not being able to continue with their career? 

With the vast sums that footballers command (at least at the highest level), a loss of earnings claim is likely to be substantial.  For example, see the case of Collet v (1) Smith (2) Middlesbrough Football & Athletic Club where a young Manchester United reserves footballer was awarded the substantial sum of just under £4 million to reflect the end of his career and the inability to play football at Championship and Premier League level. 

Of course, you don’t have to be a professional footballer to be on the receiving end of a negligent tackle.  A serious injury can have just as serious consequences for a person playing as a hobby.  It might not end their career as a banker or a market stall holder but a serious injury could lead to the inability to work for a period and a consequential loss of earnings.  If it could be proved that the offending party was negligent then there is potential for a claim.  You would have to think seriously about whether there was the financial means for that person to meet a claim for compensation.  However, such a claim may be met by an insurance policy held by the offending party or, for example, if the match was being played as part of a works organised event there may be potential to sue the employer.

Sports halls themselves may be responsible for injuries sustained during a football match.  There was great concern over the condition of the pitch for England’s first game against Italy at the Manaus stadium to the extent that they actually sprayed it green to hide the bald patches.  Luckily the surface was firm and level and despite the lack of grass in some places it did not hinder play.  Some England players may disagree.  If there were major dips and lumps which could cause foreseeable danger to players this could form the basis of a claim if a player does indeed injure themselves due to the condition of the pitch.

Finally, an injury might not be the result of negligence; it might be as a result of one of those inherent dangers.  However, a player may go on to receive negligent treatment from their medical team.  For example, I have represented a dental student who sustained an injury to his wrist when playing in goal for a Sunday league team.  A fracture to the scaphoid bone went undetected and untreated despite my client’s constant complaints of pain in that area.  He was successful in receiving compensation for the fact that his dental career was now limited to run of the mill procedures rather than more in-depth dental surgery which requires a strength in the wrist (for example, in extracting teeth) he no longer possessed as a result of delayed treatment. 

I am also currently acting for a gas engineer who fractured his leg whilst playing football.  The fracture was poorly aligned and failed to unite, both failures having been missed by his treating hospital.  He had to undergo extensive corrective surgery and wear an external fixator for over a year.  Although he will make a very good recovery, his life has been on hold whilst he underwent the prolonged recovery which could have been avoided had the surgery been performed correctly in the first place.

Claiming for football injuries is not easy.  A judge has to be convinced that the injury was not caused by the accepted risks due to the nature of the game.  But they are possible so if you think you have been the victim of negligence within the sport which has led to injury you should contact a solicitor to talk it through further. 

I have my fingers crossed that no more injuries are sustained for the remainder of our campaign.  Come on England!