Going Beyond Medical Authorization Forms: The Need for Assumption of Risk and Informed Consent

Injuries are a common result of sports and athletic activities, but those injuries can cover a wide range of severity, from minor to catastrophic.  While most schools generally exercise reasonable care in operating their athletic programs, it is also important to include waiver and authorization forms as a part of your risk management strategy.  One form that RCM&D’s Risk Consultants strongly recommend is an Assumption of Risk and Informed Consent form.

Assumption of Risk and Informed Consent forms require everyone, from student athletes to club sport participants, to acknowledge the risks of their sport or activity in order to participate.  Students over the age of 18 can sign for themselves, while students under the age of 18, must obtain a parent or guardian’s signature. 

The titles of these documents can vary depending on applicable laws, customs, and the advice of your legal counsel, but their general content should include:

  • A description of the particular sport’s risks with relevant examples;
  • Detailed information regarding the potential for serious or life-threatening injuries and possible impairment of the student’s future capacities as a result;
  • A requirement to follow the instructions of athletic staff regarding proper technique, training, and equipment use;
  • A description of the scope of activities, including  tryouts, practice, games, and tournaments;
  • A list of the required equipment, along with information regarding who furnishes the equipment and what will happen if the participant does not have the proper equipment at any time;
  • A definition of what is considered safe play and sportsmanship from both participants and fans;
  • A requirement that participants report any medical problems or symptoms promptly; and
  • Any health insurance obligations or requirements, such as proof of health insurance coverage, specialized treatments, and changes in health insurance information.

In addition, these forms can require students to acknowledge the risks of participating despite a pre-existing health condition.  Your school’s policies should address the procedure for obtaining medical evaluations of participants with potentially serious or life-threatening conditions, and we strongly recommend that you seek the advice of your legal counsel to determine any playing restrictions or preclusion of athletes with a disability.

Assumption of Risk and Informed Consent forms are an important component of a well-formed risk management strategy.