Athletics Program Risk Checklist

by Donna A. Lopiano, Ph.D.

We live in a litigious society where the threat of a lawsuit is just around the corner in so many athletic program areas.  Here’s a quick checklist for athletics directors.  Does the athletics program have a policy and procedure and record keeping mechanism in place that protects student-athletes, employees and institutional interests for each of the following 18 critical areas?

Alcohol and Drugs

  1.  Drug testing program (if one exists).
  2.  Dispensing over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, nutritional supplements, prescription drugs or similar ingestible substances to athletes. 
  3.  Distributing medications under the direction of medical personnel. 
  4.  Inspection of all drug stocks (first aid kits, storage areas, etc.) and the removal of outdated, deteriorated or recalled items.

Child/Student Protection

  1.  Emotional, physical and sexual abuse and expected standards of behavior.
  2.  Missing child procedures for all camps, clinics and events.
  3.  Parent/spectator conduct.
  4.  Child pick-up.

Conditioning and Weight Training

  1.  Required pre-season conditioning programs. 
  2.  Required minimum number of practices prior to the beginning of sports competition.


  1.  Approval of legal counsel prior to execution of all agreements.
  2.  Requirements for professional liability insurance for third party contractors.

Disease Control

  1.  Control of bloodborne pathogens
  2.  Control of infectious diseases.


  1.  Accident/injury documentation.
  2.  Assumption of risk/informed consent.
  3.  Waiver of liability or other “exculpatory” agreements.


  1.  Letters of appointment and employment contracts.
  2.  Annual employee evaluations.
  3.  Corrective action procedures.
  4.  Termination procedures.
  5.  Position posting requirements.
  6.  Harassment (sex, race, sexual orientation, etc.).
  7.  Protected employee expression.
  8.  Position interviewing.
  9.  Documentation of references and previous employment.
  10. . Background checks. 

Event Management

  1.  Conformity with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  2.  Tickets as revocable license.
  3.  Fan behavior.
  4.  Internal and external crowd control.
  5.  Alcohol consumption.
  6.  Security personnel. 
  7.  Facility evacuation.
  8.  Emergency equipment.
  9.  Communications equipment. 
  10. . Emergency transportation in the event of a medical emergency.
  11. . Medical and other emergency procedures.
  12. . Parking and traffic controls.
  13. . Concession health and sanitation.
  14. . Use of pyrotechnics.
  15. . Spectator code of conduct.
  16. . Noisemakers, weapons or items that can be used as weapons, signs.
  17. . Search for missing persons.


  1.  Protective eyewear.
  2.  Protective helmets.
  3.  Sport specific mandatory equipment.
  4.  Equipment instruction.
  5.  Equipment inspection.
  6.  Trampolines. 


  1.  Safety inspection and maintenance.
  2.  Supervisory and insurance requirements.

Gender Equity

  1.  Compliance assessment/plans.
  2.  Handling complaints. 

Instruction and Certification

  1.  Emergency medical certification (CPR, first aid, the use of AEDs and the prevention of disease transmission).
  2.  Instruction credentials.
  3.  Safety and supervisory expectations.


  1.  Medical treatment for injuries or illness incurred due to sports participation.
  2.  Event liability.

Lightning and Weather

  1.  Suspension, resumption or cancellation of play.
  2.  Lightning detectors.
  3.  Shelter instructions.

Medical Screening, Records and Emergencies

  1.  Cardiac arrest and use of external defibrillators. 
  2.  Emergency medical equipment/location/inspection/maintenance.
  3.  Medical emergency action plan/training/rehearsal.
  4.  Medical screening and records.
  5.  Participation decisions in the event of injury, illness, pregnancy

Team Rules

  1.  Hazing, initiation rituals and physical punishment.
  2.  Review and approval of team rules.


  1.  Driver requirements.
  2.  Transportation contractors.
  3.  Vehicle inspection, maintenance and record-keeping.
  4.  Documentation required for vehicle and coach.
  5.  Release of participants to return by different means.
  6.  Travel insurance.
  7.  Mandatory rest stops, maximum driving time. 

Weight loss, Dehydration, Heat and Cold Related Illnesses 

  1.  Availability of fluids.
  2.  Guidelines for dressing, games and work-outs in high heat/humidity or excessively cold conditions.
  3.  Methods of weight loss.  
  4.  Assessment of body composition.
  5.  Appropriate nutritional intervention.