Is a Waiver Enough?

waiverIn the 2005 New York Times article, “Getting Fit, Even if It Kills You,” which questioned CrossFit’s safety, Greg Glassman said, “It can kill you… I’ve always been completely honest about that.” Which is probably why you enforce waivers at your Box.

By that account, injury is inevitable. But with a system stronger than basic waivers, chances are your members will never consider suing you. Even after an injury.

Monique Ames, the owner of CrossFit Evolution in Longwood, Florida, doesn’t have her members sign just a liability release waiver. She’s crafted a separate intake questionnaire that asks about the member’s health history, exercise and activity history, pre-existing injuries and health issues and their fitness goals. The questionnaire lets members know upfront how serious Evolution is about his or her fitness journey.

In fact, every member sits down with Ames and discusses any pain they have or concerns about the workouts. “A waiver is not enough. The intake questionnaire is not enough,” Ames said. “It’s having a real relationship of caring about your athletes. It’s not just about protecting myself, it’s about protecting them. And the more I can learn about all the members, then the better service I can provide for them and the easier it is for me to keep them safe.”

Ames said if she knows a member pulled a muscle or had some pain after a workout, she’ll call and check on them at home. Even if she sees a member post something on social media about getting hurt, she’ll check on them and see if any adjustments need to be made to their workouts.

If a member sustains an injury that doesn’t require medical attention, she works with them one-on-one. “That goes a long way with being able to work through people’s … soft injury, because it’s not a real (injury) yet that requires a doctor,” she said. “So this way, I’m letting them know, ‘Yes, you’re injured. I’m validating you’re injured, but it’s soft. Let’s fix it.’ And then I do everything I can to fix it, — scale, I follow up with them at least once a week during that process, and some people have done basically mobility and rehab with me.”

Ames is quick to remind members that she isn’t a doctor, and she doesn’t give doctor advice. But she cares for each injury until it’s resolved, ultimately avoiding serious issues.

If a member is severely injured and directed by a doctor to take it easy for a while, Ames will give the member a leave of absence. “If you have a medical issue, you go on what I call a ‘Medical Hold,’ and what that means is I don’t bill you,” Ames said. “It is a pain in the ass? No, not really. Because I’m keeping that member and I’m keeping them happy.”

Waivers exist as legal protection, to release liability of your gym for any injury. But Ames believes by focusing less on not getting sued and more on catering to each member’s needs, relationships grow and lawsuits fall to the wayside.

Kayla Boyd
Kayla Boyd is an intern for Peake Media. She can be reached at kayla@peakemedia.com.