Risk, free markets and free will

October 17, 2011


It is interesting to note that in the last couple of days, National Football League Pittsburgh Steelers 2010 NFL Defensive Player of the Year and All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu sustained a concussion in a game with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Jay Beagle of the National Hockey League Washington Capitals was knocked out cold (colloquialism for being rendered unconscious) from a punch at the fists of Arron Asham of the Pittsburgh Penguins, a 27 year old man died 300 m from the finish line at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, and 2005 IndyCar champion Dan Wheldon died in a crash at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The point here isn’t to chronicle the injuries and deaths in sport but to rhetorically ask – in connecting the dots between these sports which each possess varying degrees of inherent risk and its athletes who consent to those risks ordinarily inherent in the sport – despite the different outcomes from brain injuries to fatalities, is acknowledgement and assumption of those risks enough or should more be done?

Or are these athletes participating on their own free will, motivated by vanity and insecurity (apologies to Simple Minds), and benefiting from what the market will bear? Or are they being exploited by commercial forces that regard them as collateral damage in their pursuit of the bottom line?

Just asking.

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One Comment on “Risk, free markets and free will”

  1. Yvette Kearns Says:

    The question of what motivates an individual is so very personal, unique and very much in the subjective in the mind of the athlete; the athlete embarks on a journey upon which he/she is aware generally and assumes responsibility for all risks associated with the sport. When participating, those risks are consented to and accepted. This is the very essence of free will. The tragic loss of any athlete will probably result in an analysis by those in authority of whether anything could have been done to avoid that outcome.

    Various press reports on the tragedy of the death of Dan Wheldon at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway reported that there were calls for the addition of canopies to be fitted to the vehicles to prevent blunt head injuries as well as references that some of the drivers in that race (Dan Wheldon being one of them) had expressed concern that there were 34 cars competing – too high in the opinion of some of the athletes. (CBS News and SceneDaily).

    IndyCar’s 2011 Rule Book (https://hardcards.indycar.com/Resources/pdfs/2011_IZOD_IndyCar_Series_Rule_Book_Final_%20UNFORMATTED_CLEAN.pdf) at E, page 16 binds in law every member to assume all the risks and to recognise that automobile racing can be hazardous. Whilst the Rule Book states that safe conditions are maintained; these conditions can be affected by human error. It is reported that two vehicles’ tyres touched which resulted in the pile up; was this as a result of overcrowding – too many cars on the track that leaves very little room for human error or would it have happened anyway had say, the number of cars on the track been reduced by the IRL Officials or indeed, would this fatality have been avoided if a canopy was fitted to the car or would more occur?

    I find it difficult to comment on the $5 million incentive and profits when consideration is given to those who have been left behind. But maybe this is just the Rules of the Game. Motor racing is an inherently dangerous sport.


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