With the initial televising of the XGames, and other similar broadcasts in the mid -1990’s, featuring Extreme Sports competition, the desire among young people to imitate the dangerous maneuvers and aerobatics of extreme sports professionals has risen significantly. There is no real official list of extreme sports, but newer and riskier activities seem to be added as quickly as the imagination can contrive them. What once consisted of sports, such as off road biking, motocross, skateboarding and snowboarding has now been joined by cycle and motorcycle jumping, base jumping and wing suit flying. The country was recently shocked by the death of base jumper James E. Hickey, 73, after his attempt to jump with a flaming parachute failed and he plummeted, as a ball of fire, from the Perrine Bridge in California.
The challenge to perform the ultimate stunt and the thrill of an adrenaline rush lures countless, mostly young, athletes to potentially injurious extreme sports each year. Some of these sports are sanctioned and some are not. Some of the participants have medical insurance but many, including professionals, do not. Within the realm of sanctioned professional extreme sports, signing a “death waiver” that protects the venue owner from liability has become standard. Does this always release the venue owner from gross negligence if an extreme sports injury or death is caused to the athlete? The death of a 28 year old man from drowning, after being forced under water by another participant, sparked a lawsuit against Tough Mudder, an extreme obstacle course event. The suit by the victim’s family claims extreme negligence, despite the contestant signing a “death waiver.” One claim was that there was a lack of lifesaving and medical personnel who may have been able to save the man’s life. The outcome of the case has not yet been determined.
Many competitors in extreme sports, like skateboarding, are minors and have no legal right to sign a waiver. It must be signed by a parent or legal guardian. In those cases the minor may not be completely aware of the risk of serious injury or even death. Head, neck and spine injuries are common in extreme sports, as are bone fractures. Is an injury always the fault of the athlete who sustains it, during practice or competition? Could it be the result of defective equipment, a design flaw in the area of play or allowing the sport to commence during poor weather conditions? There may not be adequate emergency medical help available. These could all be considered negligence of the sanctioning body, the venue owner or even a coach.
As participants continue to raise the bar on the difficulty level of tricks and newer, more dangerous, sports are created, the emphasis seems to be leaning more to the thrill of the event and less to the safety. According to an article published in Healthday, extreme sports injury to head and neck exceeds 40,000 each year. The greatest proportion of these injuries stems from skateboarding and snowboarding. With athletes pushing the envelope of difficulty continually, these numbers are more than likely to rise. Athletes who are new to the sport and try to mimic the practiced moves of professionals are at the greatest risk.
If you or someone you care about has suffered an extreme sports injury, or injured in any sporting activity, due to the negligence of others, call Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA for a free consultation. Do not assume that the injury was your fault. Speak to a professional sports injury attorney today. You may be entitled to a cash settlement. You do not pay us until you collect money.
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