RH v CUFC – Colchester, Sport/Negligent Physiotherapy

The Claimant, a young footballer, “tipped for the top” entered an FA Premier League Scholarship Agreement, the terms of which requiring him to submit promptly to such medical examination as the Club may reasonably require

…. “such treatment as may be prescribed by the medical… advisers of the Club in order to restore… to fitness.  The Club shall arrange promptly such prescribed treatment and shall ensure… (it) is undertaken and completed…

In the event the player suffers permanent incapacity, the Club shall… be entitled to serve notice, terminating this agreement”.

The Claimant sustained an injury to the right knee in June 2005.  He was assessed by the Club’s physiotherapist and referred for MRI scanning and examination by the Club’s orthopaedic surgeon.  He concluded… “has a posterior lateral bundle tear of the ACL and a few fibres of the anterior medial bundle still patent… he has a posterior third crush tear of the lateral meniscus and a small indentation on the inferior surface of the posterior third of the medial meniscus, but neither of these… need re-section.  The question is whether the knee will be stable enough and we should get him back on an aggressive rehabilitation programme and tested over the next four to six weeks.  If it is not stable enough, then despite the fact that there are a few fibres present, he will require a reconstruction in order to allow him to continue with his professional football career”.

The Claimant was commenced on an aggressive programme of rehabilitation and training.  On the 7 October he was directed to make a return to full training.  On the 11 November the right knee gave way during a game.  On the 18 November the Claimant recommenced functional rehabilitation.  On the 6 December he was again directed to return to full training.  On the 17 January, the right knee was injured again in training.  On the 6 March the Claimant was again directed to return to full training.

The Claimant continued to participate in full training and played various matches.  In spite of continuing difficulties with the right knee, the Club physiotherapist failed to refer the Claimant back for further investigation and reconstruction.  The Claimant’s contract expired in June 2006 and was not renewed.

The Claimant continued to suffer intermittent chapters of injury and eventually in February 2007, on the advice of his NHS consultant, underwent the knee construction surgery.  By December 2007 he was advised that whilst a return to the professional game could not be “completely excluded”, he would suffer premature arthritis and an increased likelihood of repeat injury, the net effect of which almost certainly deterring any interest from professional clubs.

Post-proceedings, both breach of duty and causation remained in dispute.  On causation one of the main hurdles to be overcome was the Defendant’s assertion that at the time the Claimant was early in his playing career and in spite of a deemed high potential, the degree of success that he would have achieved in the professional game was by no means certain, if successful at all.

The claimant was successful with damages recovered in a six figure sum.


Posted on

23rd August 2017