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Knee Injury Case Study

RCSM 435 –

Mini Case Study: O’Brien’s Knee Injury

The NFL – Chicago Bears drafted Randy O’Brien in the first round as top running back on the basis of his All-American status as a collegian. Anticipation was high for his rookie season that abruptly ended when he suffered a tear in the medial collateral ligament of his right knee during a preseason game.

Although he faithfully completed all of the rehabilitation prescribed by the team trainer during the next ten months, O’Brien had difficulty returning to full speed. He seemed tentative on his cuts as a result of residual pain. The team physician, Dr. Bruce Hobbs, in an effort to reassure him, suggested O’Brien take a cortisone shot in his knee before the opening game of the new season.

Although reluctant, O’Brien finally agreed because he wanted to play and justify his multi-million dollar contract. When he was able to make his cuts without pain, O’Brien was convinced the cortisone shot had may it possible. Despite difficulty walking during the week and pain during his limited practice time, every Sunday O’Brien got a pain blocking shot and ran with abandon. While he ran for over 2000 yards and won the league rushing title, by the end of the season the cortisone shot did not block out all the pain. During the off-season, O’Brien found out he had done permanent damage to his knee. His NFL career was over.


Duty is created by a special relationship – between the physician and athlete – to protect the participant from unreasonable risk of harm. In this case, what is the source of the duty?

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What are the inherent risks of playing professional football?

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In what way did the physician breach the duty?

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How would the breach of duty be classified: ordinary negligence, gross negligence, or reckless misconduct?Explain your position in terms of intention to action and intention to harm.

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Has misfeasance, nonfeasance, or malfeasance occurred? Explain.

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Was the tort foreseeable by a reasonable prudent professional? Explain.

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How would the damage be classified: physical injury, property loss, impaired dignity/reputation? Explain.

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Who may be liable for damageS in this case: (a) O’Brien (b) team trainer/coach, (c) team physician, (d) Chicago Bears organization, or e) NFL? Explain.

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