Posts Tagged ‘fitness center’

Sports Risk Management for Senior Participants

Preventing injuries and accidents with senior athletes

The baby boomers have gone gray. The youngest of them are in their mid-50s, sprinting toward their senior citizen discounts and fumbling for their reading glasses.

But the generation that ushered in aerobics classes, jogging, and in-home treadmills to popular culture aren’t slowing down. Gyms, rec centers, and fitness classes are filled with people in their 60s and 70s.

If you’re a personal trainer, health/rec center owner/operator, or sporting event planner, you need to be cognizant of the particular health and safety concerns when working with seniors.

First things first

You can expect that most seniors have significant health-related histories that range Fitness Trainer insurancefrom failing vision to cardiac disease and anything inbetween. It’s important that you obtain a current and detailed medical history from all seniors, which should include current medications, allergies, implanted devices and past surgeries.

Orthopedic issues

One of the first things to degrade as we age is our sense of balance, which means an increased risk of falls. Minimize these risks by making monitoring trip hazards such as curled mat edges, rugs that slip, wet area and split-level step ups.

Time and use have left their mark on the joints, bones and muscles of seniors. Arthritis and osteoporosis are common ailments  among seniors. The results can be loss of cartilage, lack of joint-lubricating fluids, and diminished strength of tendons and ligaments. Such issues leave seniors more susceptible to falls, stress fractures.

Age also has a way of affecting our reflexes, so seniors typically react more slowly. It’s important to recognize that senior athletes may be in good physical shape to participate in their activity of choice, but their reaction time may be less toned, which can result in accidents.

Cardiac and pulmonary issues

Heart and lung-related medical issues are often not immediately apparent, which makes them that much more dangerous. This is a perfect example of why having a medical history on file is important.  Seniors with such histories should be required to provide clearance from their medical provider before participating in vigorous or moderate to high aerobic activities.

Heart disease can result in a decreased supply of oxygen to the muscles, which can cause shortness of breath, chest pain and even a heart attack.  A defibrillator should be available at your facility or sporting event and staff trained in its use.Sports risk management

Seniors with a history of smoking, asthma and chronic lung disease should be monitored for signs of stressful breathing. Extremely hot and humid conditions can also impact breathing, as can pollen when participating in outdoor activities.

Eyes and ears

Eyesight is among the first senses to be affected with age. Suggest to those who wear glasses that they bring an extra pair just in case they break theirs. Better yet, suggest they invest in sports lenses or a sturdy headband to prevent glasses from falling off. Consider taking the proactive step of keeping a glasses repair kit on hand. Adequate lighting, especially in corridors and restrooms, is essential.

While many seniors live with varying degrees of hearing loss, most do nothing about it. Consequently, they miss much verbal information, which can cause confusion and accidents. It helps to have as much information as possible available in print documents. Clear signage is also important in facilities and venues.

The outdoors

As stated earlier, heat and humidity are significant concerns for senior citizens. They’re also more susceptible to dehydration. Make sure seniors athletes always have access to seating, shade, and plenty of water when it’s hot to avoid any level of heat illness. Encourage them to wear hats and sunglasses when possible and to apply sunscreen.

Rain means puddles and slippery surfaces, and we already know seniors are prone to falling. Monitor the paths and playing areas for accumulated water and slippery areas, as well as holes and debris such as trash and limbs and leaves.

The bottom line

No need to fear working with senior athletes. Most have been active for many years and are aware of their limitations. But being prepared for the unexpected is your best bet in dodging liability in the event of an injury.


Source: Marc I. Leavey. “Planning a Sports Event?” Sports Destination Management. March/April 2017.

Waiver Saves Fitness Center in PA

Divided court highlights potential waiver pitfalls

Melinda Hinkal found out the hard way that it’s important to read before signing that liability waiver. She, like everyone else who applied to join the gym, was required to sign a waiver before she could begin working out in the facility. After joining, Hinkal claimed that too much weight on the equipment she was using caused a neck injury. It was her contention that the trainer advised her to continue working out even after she complained of pain.

The PA State Superior Court decision ruled she could not sue the gym because the signed waiver stipulates that gym members “assume all risks of personal injury.” However, not all the judges agreed with the ruling. A dissenting judge argued that the waiver agreement “contravenes public policy,” which is intended to protect consumers. The dissenting judge also noted that the waiver didn’t clearly stipulate that personal training sessions were covered.

Would your waiver hold up in court?

This case shows that the outcome of any given case clearly depends on the judge’s interpretation. This case also provides a clear example of some of the points I bring up in “Are Waivers/Releases Worth the Paper on Which They’re Written?” Chief among those points is that courts are more likely to rule in favor of a waiver that was custom written for specific activities and that aims to meet the requirements of your state’s laws.

So, what is a well-written waiver/release? Quite simply, nearly every phrase in every sentence must be written to avoid the pitfalls that resulted in actual rulings against waivers. The above-mentioned article lists 10 common waver risks to avoid.

Waivers and risk management

Given the dissenting opinion and the pitfalls mentioned above, it’s logical to assume that a different panel of judges might have ruled in Hinkal’s favor. So, don’t assume you’ll beat the odds if your waiver comes under scrutiny.

We have many other risk management articles pertinent to health clubs and fitness trainers. And we offer best-in-industry fitness instructor insurance and fitness center insurance at up to 38% savings.


Source: Matt Miller. “Woman signed away her right to sue over injury at Gold’s Gym, divided Pa. court rules,” pennlive.com. 29 Jan. 2016.

Arguing Treadmill Safety Standards

Posted | Filed under Health Clubs

And liability releases come into play

A gross negligence lawsuit filed by a member of 24 Hour Fitness is all about the safety standards for treadmills… or the lack thereof.

The plaintiff claims she suffered a severe head injury after falling backwards off a treadmill and hitting another piece of steel equipment. The exercise machine she hit her head on was placed approximately 46 inches from the rear of the treadmill.

24 Hour Fitness argues that the plaintiff signed a liability release and that there is no treadmill safety zone industry standard. However, the plaintiff’s attorneys are countering by citing a section of the treadmill manufacturer’s owner’s manual and safety guidelines, as well as an expert’s statement that the plaintiff was put at risk by the distance between the treadmill and other piece of equipment.

According to ASTM International Standard F2115-05 there should be a clear distance of 20 inches on either side of the treadmill and 39 inches behind the treadmill.

“This standard, while not widely known by club operators, is very well known by the equipment manufacturers and has been effectively used in court cases,” said Steve Tharrett, president of Club Industry Consulting.

The plaintiff  is claiming that her signature on the liability release was fraudulently obtained.

On the day she signed the membership agreement she could neither speak nor read English, according to the suit.  The manager, who could not speak Spanish, showed her the membership fee on the computer screen and made exercise motions, which the plaintiff understood was the price for use of the facility. Since she could only read the numbers in the price, the plaintiff was not aware of the liability release provision included in the membership agreement when she signed.

We offer more articles on fitness center and treadmill safety and encourage you to read “Are Waiver/Releases Worth the Paper They are Written On?”

Source: Eric Stemgren, “Judgment Overturned in 24 Hour Fitness Treadmill Lawsuit,” clubindustry.com, 12 June, 2015.