Title

Blurring the Boundary Lines Between Amateur and Professional Sports

Publication Date

Spring 2008

Document Type

Article

Abstract

The NCAA expends substantial resources to insure that the distinction between amateur and professional sports is maintained in collegiate athletics. Preserving the boundary lines between amateur and professional sports is more than an attempt to ensure philosophical purity or a nostalgic quest for historic preservation. The boundaries between amateur and professional sports are maintained by legal doctrines in several areas.

Application of tort law to coaches' liability for conduct leading to injuries to athletes reflects and preserves the boundary lines between professional and amateur sports. Although the implied assumption of risk doctrine should preserve that distinction, some courts have applied the doctrine in a manner that blurs those lines. Application of the implied assumption of risk doctrine to shield collegiate coaches and educational institutions from liability for injuries makes student-athletes insurers of their coaches and their educational institutions. Denying professional athletes a remedy for negligent conduct of their coaches under the assumption of risk doctrine may be justified on the basis that professional athletes are compensated as employees for their participation in professional sports and are covered by collective bargaining agreements. Even though intercollegiate football and men's and women's basketball generate enormous revenue, the athletic scholarships student-athletes receive cannot alone justify denying amateur athletes a remedy for negligent coaching conduct.

This article analyzes the primary and secondary implied assumption of risk doctrines in the sports context. It then argues that the boundary line developed between the primary and secondary implied assumption of risk doctrines may be applied to preserve the distinction between professional and amateur sports. The article specifically argues that some courts analyze inherent risk in particular sports in a way that treats professional and amateur athletes similarly, thereby blurring the distinction. An over-inclusive definition of the term "inherent risk" potentially relieves defendants of a duty of care to student-athletes for negligent conduct for which imposition of liability would not fundamentally alter particular sports or undermine the policy of encouraging vigorous and spirited sport participation.

Publication Title

University of Missouri Kansas City Law Review

Volume

76

Issue

3

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