The Super Bowl right around the corner. When watching the big game, or any football game, you might catch yourself thinking: “Wow, that was a vicious hit!” or “Is that tackle a penalty?” or even “Isn’t the game of football just one battery after another?” Football, like many other contact sports, is a game where physicality is a predominant characteristic. In order to play contact sports, you will be subject to physical contact by your opponent. That leads you to the question: “What makes physical contact in sporting events not a battery?”
To fully understand the difference, it is important to know what does constitute a battery under tort law. Under common law tort principles, a battery, an intentional tort, is (1) an act performed by defendant (2) with the intent to cause harmful or offensive contact, and (3) harmful or offensive contact to the plaintiff occurs. Now looking at these three elements generally, you can argue that every tackle or hit could, in fact, satisfy these elements. With those elements in mind, why isn’t every tackle, or every block, a battery? The answer is implied consent.
When a person decides to play a sport where physical contact is part of the game that person is implicitly consenting to the physical aspects of the sport. By signing up to play football, you are consenting to being tackled by your opponent or blocked from tackling your opponent. Since physicality is inherent in the game, you are issuing implied consent to being physically contacted in a manner that is within the scope of the game.
The next time you are watching a football game, or any physical sport for that matter, you will know why the participants can tackle or hit each other without it being a battery under tort law.