A personal injury solicitor says a recent £20,000 damages settlement for a client has highlighted the requirements of sports clubs and groups to ‘take all appropriate steps to minimise the risk of injury’ to participants, particularly young children.
The case involved an eight-year-old girl who was left with a long term injury after breaking her arm twice within the space of a year at the same gymnastics club.
Despite the sport being one where it is accepted that injuries can occur, the club faced allegations of failing to take appropriate steps to reduce the risk of injury.
This included failing to ensure she had been given proper and appropriate training in how to fall, failure to ensure she was performing on a surface which would reduce the risk of injury and failing to provide suitable and safe equipment.
The girl was forced to give up gymnastics due to the injuries she suffered, was left with a permanent scar on her upper arm and had to undergo further corrective surgery to remove a piece of bone, as her arm began to turn the wrong way.
Her father said he had been upset by the first injury to his daughter, but accepted such accidents can happen at sports clubs and accepted the apologies of club officials. However, he said that after the second break he began to ask questions, and said the club’s defensive response made him decide to take legal advice.
“After my daughter suffered her first injury we were obviously upset but we also took into consideration that injuries can happen in a sport like gymnastics when you are doing exercises and movements which involving jumping off apparatus and falling.
“However, when she suffered a second break after such a short space of time we obviously raised concerns about how it could have happened and asked what measures the club were taking to reduce and whether it could have been avoided.
“The club wasn’t very receptive to this and didn’t seem to be willing to take any responsibility. That disappointed us as we felt they needed to take some responsibility, and accept that there may have been failings on their side for such injuries to happen twice.
“That is when we started looking at taking legal advice as we didn’t feel it was right and we did think it needed looking into to minimise the chances of this happening to other members of the club.”
Case highlighted responsibility of sports clubs to minimise risk of injury
Solicitor Katy Nelson, of Hudgell Solicitors, said the case had highlighted the responsibility on sports clubs to reduce the chances of injuries being sustained.
“We have to accept that we cannot and never will be able to prevent injuries happening in sports such as gymnastics, especially involving young children who may not show the same levels of caution and understanding of danger as adults,” she said.
“However, there are many basic measures which can and must be taken to reduce risk of injury by sports clubs, and a failure to do so is not acceptable.
“These include ensuring participants are supervised, particularly when carrying out moves they are not fully skilled or proficient in, and that the equipment used is suitable for preventing or minimising the likelihood of injury.
“In this case it was obviously of concern that a young eight-year-old girl suffered such a serious injury twice, within a short space of time.
“It was our case that suitable training, instruction and a lack of supervision contributed to this girl suffering her injuries, and it was on that basis of claim that the defendants made an offer of settlement of £20,000.
“In was an interesting case given the nature of the sport and the risk of injury which is obviously involved. However, it should never be a case that injuries such as this are not questioned and simply accepted. All clubs must be minimising the risk and providing the safest possible environment at all times.”
The girl’s father requested that neither his daughter, nor the club, be named as the accident happened a number of years ago, with the legal claim only recently settling.
He said: “It has been a long process and I don’t want to name the club as hopefully they will now have made changes and improved their practices.
“I wanted lessons to be learned from it and the legal case has certainly identified where improvements needed to be made.
“I’m not sure if my daughter would still have been enjoying gymnastics but these injuries took away any opportunity.
“She had a lot of pain and needed extra surgery, as well as being left with a scar, so the money is for her to use now. I am just glad the case has been settled.”