J. Mark Van Ness: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5902-8735
Professionalization of Exercise Physiology
Health, Exercise, and Sport Sciences Department
In 2002, an overweight, sedentary, and middle-aged man suffered a heart attack during his first workout with his “certified” personal trainer. During the workout, the man repeatedly asked to stop because he was experiencing fatigue, heat, thirst, breathlessness, and chest pain. The trainer responded to requests to stop and complaints of fatigue by questioning his client’s masculinity and by continuing the workout. In the lawsuit that followed (Rostai v. Neste Enterprises, 2006), the court did not have the option to consider a statutorily defined standard of care since no licensing requirements existed for those who design and/or lead fitness programs. The court examined the facts and law as presented including the trainer’s conduct, expert testimony, as well as a doctrine known as “primary assumption of risk.” In the end, the court held that under this doctrine, the trainer owed no duty to protect a client from the risks inherent with exercise or to avoid challenging him beyond his current capacity during an initial training session. Simply put, the client assumed the risks associated with exercise, including a risk as serious as a heart attack [1, 2].
Ciccolella, M. E.,
Van Ness, J. M.,
A public at risk: Personal fitness trainers without a standard of care.
Professionalization of Exercise Physiology, 11(7), 1–12.