Feature Article - August 2010
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Risky Business

The Ins and Outs of Risk Management

By Dawn Klingensmith

Safety Consideration

Each sport and recreational activity has its own set of risks, which you must assess, manage and finance. But there are some considerations that apply broadly if not across the board. This is by no means a comprehensive list of risks arising from sports and recreation.

Playing Fields
Are rules and regulations posted conspicuously?
Are weather conditions monitored before and during a game or practice?
Have criteria been established as to when evacuation should occur, if and when a game should resume, or whether a game or practice should be canceled?
Has an evacuation plan been made in case of severe or catastrophic weather?
Are there holes in the turf?
Is the drainage system adequate?
Do sprinkler heads pose a hazard?
Are goals sturdy and well-anchored?
Are goals and posts padded?
Have rocks, clumped mud and foreign objects been removed?
If used at night, are lights bright enough to illuminate the entire field?
Is the parking lot well-lit?
Have light poles been inspected for stability and safety?
Have bleachers and public areas been inspected for slippery surfaces, broken benches and other hazards?
Are fences or netting designed to protect spectators free of holes?
Are fences surrounding play areas brightly colored and marked with a warning track or lines so that players are less likely to run into them?
Gymnasiums and indoor courts
Are rules and regulations posted conspicuously?
Does the floor have proper shock absorption?
Does the gym have sufficient room around the court so that players won't run into walls?
Do walls and other objects around the court have sufficient protective padding?
Is there sufficient space separating courts?
If there are glass doors or windows, are they protected or made of safety glass?
Are electrical control panels, light switches, etc., padded or recessed into the wall?
Is the gym adequately ventilated?

Source: "Managing Risk in Sport and Recreation: The Essential Guide for Lost Prevention" (Human Kinetics, 2009), by Katharine M. Nohr

Golf: A Most Dangerous Sport?
Perhaps it's fitting that world-famous dare devil Evel Knievel played golf, given the high frequency and severity of injuries that arise from hazards that are fundamental to the game. Statistically, is golf riskier than, say, jumping canyons on a motorcycle?

"I was surprised that most published appellate court decisions in sport and recreation [were] related to golf," said Kaneohe, Hawaii-based risk management consultant Katharine Nohr, who researched court decisions for her book and website, nohrsports.com.

But when you think about it, it makes sense.

Though obviously not as violent as football or hockey, nor as fastpaced, golf "uses expansive areas of land made up of various types of potentially slippery grass surfaces, water hazards and sand traps," Nohr said. "Add to this the use of golf carts driven by potentially intoxicated players on uneven, hilly and curvy land. Then, factor in that players can hit others with balls and clubs and that those steel clubs can serve as lightning rods."

Certainly, "There are more dangerous sports than golf," Nohr added. "However, one reason why there are a lot of litigated injuries in golf is that people who play golf may have greater access to the legal system."

In other words, golfers aren't the greatest risk-takers among athletes, but they are among the wealthiest.