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Can Hockey Players Sue for Their Sports Injuries?


In Canada, hockey is more than a national pastime; it’s a way of life. In cities, towns, and rural communities across the country, hockey is a tradition that’s passed down from generation to generation. But playing the beloved sport can be dangerous, as accidents on the ice can result in serious injuries.

Since hockey has the potential to be a physically violent sport, injuries that result from accidents on the ice can be severe. These injuries may lead to lengthy recovery processes, or even permanent damage that prevents injured players from returning to the rink, or to their places of work.

By willfully participating in a recreational league or friendly games at a local arena, individuals who choose to play hockey implicitly consent to the risks associated with the game. Some leagues, like the Canadian Adult Recreational Hockey Association, even require every affiliated player to sign a liability waiver indemnifying the organization against losses resulting from injuries during league play.

However, if hockey injuries sustained during gameplay are caused by malicious intent or another player’s behaviour that falls outside the bounds of fair play, the injured player may be able to pursue legal action. By working with a personal injury lawyer, the victim of another player’s dangerous behaviour on the ice may be able to recover damages for financial losses resulting from their injuries.

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Outside the Bounds of Fair Play

While individuals who play recreational hockey implicitly accept that the sport they’re engaging in involves inherent risks, they also implicitly accept that everyone on the ice should participate according to the rules of fair play. If it can be proven that a player intentionally injured another player during a hockey game, the victim may be eligible to pursue legal action against them. However, in the context of an extremely physical competitive sport, proving malicious intent can be very difficult.

That said, if a player’s behaviour during the game is determined to be outside the ordinary bounds of fair play, they may be considered liable for damages resulting from injuries caused by their unsportsmanlike conduct.

Some hockey players may be under the impression that, inside the rink, anything goes. But this is not the case. While a player’s natural instincts during gameplay may lead them to engage in overly competitive behaviour, each individual on the ice must be held to a certain standard of care for their fellow players. A failure to uphold this standard through reckless, out of the ordinary behaviour could be considered negligence. As such, a hockey player that sustains serious injuries as a result of another party’s recklessness on the ice may be eligible to file a lawsuit against the negligent party.

In these cases, injured players may not necessarily need to prove that their injuries were motivated by another party’s malicious intent. Instead, they may be required to illustrate that the conduct of the player who caused their injuries fell outside the bounds of what a reasonable competitor should expect in the circumstances of their game.

To determine whether a player’s conduct is considered outside the bounds of fair play, a personal injury lawyer may submit various forms of evidence illustrating:

  • The type of league in which the game was played
  • The regular level of play within the league
  • The rules and regulations of the game determined by the league
  • And possibly more

Evidence may include testimonies from other players or referees who may be able to support the claim that the reckless, injury-causing behaviour was outside of the generally accepted bounds of fair play within their league.

Common Hockey Injuries

Ice hockey is a fast-paced, high-contact sport. The game involves dangerous hockey sticks, fast-moving pucks, sharp ice skates, and body-checking against the boards of a rink. And its swift, relentless action is all played out on an icy, hard surface. Hockey can be invigorating to play, but it can also cause its participants to sustain serious injuries.

Across the country, out of all sports-related injuries reported to Canadian emergency departments, hockey is the leading cause of hospitalizations. Some common injuries hockey players can sustain during gameplay include:

  • Broken collarbones
  • ACL strains or tears
  • MCL strains or tears
  • Shoulder dislocation
  • Fractured or broken bones
  • Muscle strains
  • Spinal injuries
  • Concussions

Consistent trauma to the head and repeated concussions can lead to chronic brain injuries, whose symptoms can severely impact a player’s quality of life.

The Consequences of Concussions

Concussions are the most common type of head injury caused by impact or forceful movements, just like the ones hockey players may encounter on the ice. If treated properly, most concussions can be resolved without complications. However, in certain circumstances, concussions can lead to long-term disabilities.

The symptoms of concussions can be physical, mental, and behavioral. A hockey player who has recently sustained a concussion may experience dizziness, nausea, headaches, and sensitivity to light. They may also experience difficulty thinking, focusing, or remembering. Concussed individuals may suffer from extreme mood swings, shifting quickly between feelings of anger, frustration, and anxiety. If treated incorrectly, concussions can result in chronic symptoms that persist for years.

If hockey players experience the symptoms of a concussion after receiving a blow to the head during gameplay, seeking immediate medical attention could be critical. These symptoms may include:

  • Neck pain
  • Double vision
  • Weakness or tingling in extremities
  • Severe headache
  • Convulsions
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Vomiting
  • Restless, argumentative, or agitated behavior
  • And possibly more

In recent years, hockey training programs like Hockey Nova Scotia have begun formally educating young players about concussion prevention during gameplay. Some provinces have even gone as far as to eliminate body-checking in youth hockey leagues to try and reduce young players’ chances of sustaining concussions on the ice. But lifelong hockey players who play at a competitive level are vulnerable to severe head injuries. Repetitive blows to the head and multiple concussions over time can cause permanent brain damage, like chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

If a hockey injury resulting from another player’s reckless behavior on the ice leads to a chronic condition that prevents you from performing the duties of your job, or otherwise diminishes your quality of life, a personal injury lawyer may be able to pursue damages for financial losses, and pain and suffering you may have incurred as a result.

Call Preszler Injury Lawyers Today

If a negligent hockey player’s reckless behavior in the rink caused you to sustain injuries, our expert long term disability Lawyers may be able to provide you with useful legal assistance and advice. To discuss your situation and learn if you’re eligible to pursue damages, contact us today.

For a free, initial consultation, call Preszler Injury Lawyers at 902-405-8282.

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