Public Health Policy and Personal Responsibility in Sport

Ruth Townsend's journal article Public Health Policy and Personal Responsibility in Sport - Competitive or Collaborative? points out that governments have grappled with the dichotomy of -

(a)        on the one hand assisting people to live healthier lifestyles thru increased exercise to 'inter alia' reduce Obesity, and

(b)        on the other hand the financial fallout from increased trauma sporting injuries. 

Ms. Townsend notes that with respect to civil liability and "who picks up the cost", in the late '70's the Whitlam government commissioned Owen Woodhouse, a Justice of the New Zealand High Court, to head a Royal Commission to examine the law of compensation for personal injuries known as the Report of the National Committee of Inquiry, Compensation and Rehabilitation in Australia.

Woodhouse took the view that "responsibility for accidents is not completely reduced to private individuals and their discrete choices, but assumes parallel lines of responsibility for groups, networks, organisations, corporations and government agencies ... Their success depends on social co-ordination, not just assertions of personal choices."

By the late 1990’s, changes were afoot with a distinct move away from the values of the community picking up the cost of the individual's sometimes reckless behaviour with a shift towards ‘risk choice’ and self-responsibility.

Recently, Richard Gaskins, Brandeis University (Massachusetts, USA, in "NEW DYNAMICS OF RISK AND RESPONSIBILITY: EXPANDING THE VISION FOR ACCIDENT COMPENSATION" contended "A holistic approach towards risk management must recognise the interconnectedness of economic and social structures".

By 2002, most Australian states and territories had introduced Civil Liability Acts which incorporated the maxim volenti non fit injuria (the voluntary assumption of risk of injury) and placed an increased onus of responsibility on the individual when participating in recreational activities. 

The Civil Liability Acts were introduced in an attempt to return accountability to individuals for choosing to undertake recreational activities which involve a Risks of Harm, provided the Inviter had informed the Invitee of the Risks of Harm Sufferable by Providing a Risk Warning.

The Civil Liability Act 2002 introduced the term Dangerous Recreational Activity being a physical activity "which involves a significant risk of physical harm".

Deborah Healey in "WARNINGS AND EXCLUSIONS - POST PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY" 2006 looks at the Civil Liability Acts four years on and considers that the first wave of legal cases decided under them suggests that the likelihood of awards in favour of injured plaintiffs is reduced due to Invitees being expected to accept greater personal responsibility.  However, there is too much inconsistency between the various States legislation.

Presently, Western health care systems incur considerable Health Care Costs treating people who have impaired their own health due to Negligent Lifestyle Behaviour.

Due to a diminishing taxpayer pool and the burgeoning Health Care Costs of the Baby Boomers, economic necessity dictates that the time will shortly come within Western Societies where the availability of health care resources differentiates between illness/accidents –

1.      due to Negligent Lifestyle Behaviour; and

2.      occurring within responsible lifestyle behaviour.

Some Bunch Riding constitutes Reckless Cycling.  Other Bunch Riding involves Dangerous Cycling.