A participant can sometimes successfully sue one who violates safety rules that encompass a particular recreational sport. Safety rules charge participants with a legal duty to every other player on the field to refrain from conduct proscribed by a safety rule. A participant can avoid the defenses of assumption of risk and contributory negligence by basing his lawsuit on a defendant's violation of a safety rule. For example, one 1975 case illustrates this concept. During a recreational soccer game, the goalkeeper was kicked in the head by an opponent while the former held the ball in the penalty box. It was a clear rule violation for the opponent to make contact with the goalkeeper in this manner.
A participant can also sue another athlete whose unsportsmanlike conduct causes the participant an injury. For example, in a famous 1976 case, a base runner in a softball game charged the plaintiff, who was five feet from second base. The result was that the infielder suffered substantial damages. The base runner was under a duty to play softball in an ordinary fashion without unsportsmanlike conduct or attempting to wantonly injure his fellow participant. The base runner violated that duty. While participants, like the infielder, assume all the ordinary and foreseeable risks incidental to that particular sport, they do not assume the risk from athletic opponents who act in an unexpected or unsportsmanlike manner with a reckless disregard for other players.