The Blood, Sweat And Fractures Of Rio 2016
The Law Of... sporting injuriesWith the Olympics into its second and final week, we have so far witnessed the usual profusion of triumphs and upsets that characterise this quadrennial addition to the sporting calendar. But it hasn't all been gold-plated glory, with Rio 2016 the home to a series of accidents and injuries that have prompted some to label it the 'most dangerous Olympics ever'.Anna Thompson, a Personal Injury Associate with Simpson Millar
, looks beyond the carnival atmosphere at some of the often excruciating incidents that have marred the current games and discusses sporting injuries in the wider context of the law.
'The Most Brutal Course in Olympic History'
A wave of devastating injuries, both in events and training, has led to questions over competitor safety at this year's Olympic Games. These have included:
- A horrific accident in the vaulting, where French gymnast, Samir Ait Said, fractured his tibia and fibula following a bad landing, the resulting crack being picked up on viewers' TV sets at home. Olympic staffers subsequently exacerbated his suffering when they dropped his stretcher loading him into the ambulance
- An Armenian weightlifter, Andranik Karapetyan, dislocating his elbow during his second attempt at lifting 195kg in the clean and jerk
- Several cycling accidents, with 3 in the same road race on what Chris Froome described as the most brutal course in Olympic history – Vincenzo Nibali (Italy) broke his collarbone in 2 places; Sergio Henao (Colombia) fractured his iliac crest and received trauma to his thorax; Richie Porte (Australia) broke his scapula
- Another wince-inducing accident in the women's road race when Dutch cyclist, Annemiek van Vleuten, was thrown headfirst over her handlebars on a sharp turn, resulting in concussion, 3 spinal fractures and a trip to intensive care
Despite the surfeit of high-profile accidents and injuries, experts have claimed that neither the frequency nor severity of injuries at the Olympics have increased during the past 10 years.
Anna Thompson remarks:"Although it is possible to pursue a claim for injuries caused by poor refereeing or poor conditions, how to go about this depends upon the applicable laws of the country and, in these cases, the relevant Olympic Rules and Regulations as laid down in the Olympic Charter 2015.""There is also the fact that by taking part sportsmen and women are consenting to an 'expected' element of risk.""In English law, there exists a common law doctrine known as volenti non fit iniura (or injuria), which translates from the Latin as: 'to a willing person, injury is not done'. This can be used as a full defence and will exonerate a defendant if proven.""What volenti means is that somebody who, of their own free will, places themselves in a situation that might result in harm to their person, and being in full knowledge of this potential risk, is unable to make a claim against another party in the event they do suffer injury. However, it only applies to cases where a reasonable person might consider that – by their actions – the claimant would have assumed the potential for harm to exist.""The Olympics showcase the pinnacle of athleticism from all four corners of the globe and even though an element of risk has to be accepted, competitors should still expect a reasonable degree of safety when taking part."