This athletic management case involves a sixteen-year-old female student who was participating in a varsity field hockey practice. The student was not wearing her protective mouthpiece during the practice, even though she had it with her that day and knew that she was supposed to wear it. Half an hour into practice, the student was struck in the mouth by a field hockey stick swung by a fellow student. She suffered severe injuries to her mouth, including dental fractures and several broken teeth. The hockey coach never gave the student any specific safety instructions to the student about the mouthpiece and failed to explain the risks involved with not wearing the mouthpiece. The student’s parents sued the school district claiming that they were negligent in not properly supervising the hockey practice and failing to advise the students about the dangers of not wearing safety equipment.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
- 1.Can a school district be held liable for an injury suffered by a hockey player if the coach fails to make sure that players are wearing proper safety equipment during practice?
Expert Witness Response
A mouthpiece or “mouthguard” is a protective piece of equipment worn during contact sports such as field hockey to reduce the risk of dental injuries. Mouthpieces generally protect the teeth and supporting structures in a player’s mouth. According to the National Federation of Field Hockey Rules, hockey coaches are required to line up players prior to a game in front of the team bench and check all safety equipment, including mouth protectors. These rules also require that safety equipment should be worn during pre-game warmups and practices. A hockey coach can easily see if a player is wearing a protective mouthpiece by looking at the player’s face because the device changes the appearance of the player and is easily seen. In this case, proper coaching practices required the coach to make sure that the players were wearing the right protective equipment and it was negligent to just rely on the student to remember to wear her protective mouthpiece. Usually, a hockey coach must start the season by giving a lecture to the students about the importance of safety equipment and also must watch the players at practice to make sure that they continue to wear their mouthpieces. Since field hockey is a sport where there is a great danger of an oral-facial injury from another player’s hockey stick, the coach should have made sure that the student was using her mouthpiece.
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