Quasi-Professional Negligence: A New Standard of Care for Volunteer Youth Sports Coaches

Warren Cormack, Joseph Graen, Jennifer Novo & Francis X. Shen, Quasi-Professional Negligence: A New Standard of Care for Volunteer Youth Sports Coaches, 20 Va. Sports & Ent. L.J. 127 (2021)

29 Pages Posted: 24 Aug 2022

See all articles by Warren Cormack

Warren Cormack

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Joseph Graen

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Jennifer Novo

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Francis X. Shen

Harvard University - Center for Bioethics; Harvard University - Department of Psychiatry; Harvard University - Harvard Law School; MGH Center for Law, Brain & Behavior

Date Written: August 21, 2022

Abstract

While in decades past parents could simply show up and coach, today parents are the front lines for public health efforts around nutrition, sports concussions, and disease transmission. To facilitate these new roles, parents are often required by states and leagues to undergo training. The policy goals are clear: better-informed volunteer coaches should be better equipped to keep youth athletes healthy and safe.

However, the significant increase in mandated training brings with it a complex, and as of yet unexplored, legal question: in an era of mandated training, if a youth athlete on their team is injured, to what standard of care should volunteer coaches be held?

Traditional tort law doctrine distinguishes between “ordinary negligence” and “professional negligence,” but we show in this Article that the line between professional and lay negligence is blurry in youth sports. These volunteer coaches are not transformed into medical professionals after a 90 minute training video, but because of the extra training they receive, they become more knowledgeable than other parents on the sidelines.

We argue in this Article that volunteer coaches in modern youth sports become “quasi-professionals” with regard to responding to sports concussions and should be subject to a new standard of quasi-professional negligence. We propose a flexible quasi-professional negligence standard, which considers three interrelated factors: (1) the level of training that a reasonable coach would be expected to have in the defendant’s situation; (2) mandated requirements from state youth sports concussion statutes; and (3) resources available to the coach to enact proper precautions and response.

Keywords: sports concussions, brain injury, standard of care, negilgence, youth sports, law and neuroscience, football

Suggested Citation

Cormack, Warren and Graen, Joseph and Novo, Jennifer and Shen, Francis X., Quasi-Professional Negligence: A New Standard of Care for Volunteer Youth Sports Coaches (August 21, 2022). Warren Cormack, Joseph Graen, Jennifer Novo & Francis X. Shen, Quasi-Professional Negligence: A New Standard of Care for Volunteer Youth Sports Coaches, 20 Va. Sports & Ent. L.J. 127 (2021), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4195879

Warren Cormack

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Joseph Graen

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Jennifer Novo

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Francis X. Shen (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Center for Bioethics ( email )

641 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA 02115
United States

Harvard University - Department of Psychiatry ( email )

Boston, MA
United States

Harvard University - Harvard Law School ( email )

1563 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

MGH Center for Law, Brain & Behavior ( email )

55 Fruit Street
Boston, MA 02114
United States

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