Firefighter’s Basketball Injury Covered By Workers’ Comp

Tom Campbell is a firefighter with the Taylorville, Illinois Fire Department. Working a 24-hour shift, Campbell was generally free after 4:30 p.m. to do anything he desired providing that he remained on the premises. Campbell’s fire station had a fitness center containing free weights and treadmills.

The Department neither mandated nor prohibited recreational athletic activities at the fire station. Firefighters worked out together in the weight room and would often play basketball games, including “horse,” “pig,” or games of “two on two” or “three on three.” Campbell’s shift commander had suggested the firefighters play basketball together as a way of exercise and team-building.

On May 19, 2011, Campbell, his commander, and other firefighters were playing basketball at the station. As Campbell jumped up for a rebound, he landed on his right ankle and “rolled it.” Campbell sprained his ankle, and filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. When the Department denied the claim, Campbell appealed through the court system.

An appeals court upheld Campbell’s claim. The Court found that “while a basketball game may constitute a recreational activity under many circumstances, in this case the claim is compensable. Here, Campbell was asked to participate in the basketball game by his shift supervisor and the game occurred while the claimant was on duty and unable to leave the premises. Further, it is undisputed that the Department encouraged fitness and sports activities during work hours and provided a fitness room and basketball hoops for its staff to utilize during their shifts. The basketball game at issue was therefore not a diversion for Campbell or an act to refresh his strength and spirits after toil, but was part of his normal activities, which included fitness and sports activities, during his work shift.”

Taylorville Fire Dept. v. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Comm’n, 2014 WL 5042098 (Ill. App. 2014).