Guest Blog – Fitness Professionals, Screen Your Clients First!

The contents of this blog are not to be construed in any manner as legal advice nor is there any intent to establish an attorney-client relationship through use of this blog.  Any legal situation is heavily dependent upon the particular facts presented and if you as a reader believe you are in need of advice please contact an attorney for a confidential consultation.


This publication is written and published to provide accurate and authoritative information relevant to the subject matter presented.  It is published with the understanding that the author and publisher are not engaged in rendering legal, medical or other professional services by reason of the authorship or publication of this work.  If legal, medical or other expert assistance is required, the services of such competent professional persons should be sought.  Moreover, in the field of personal fitness training, the services of such competent professionals must be obtained.

Adapted from a Declaration of Principles of the American Bar Association and Committee of Publishers and Associations.

Fitness professionals clearly have a duty to screen their clients before they recommend, lead or supervise fitness activities for those clients.  There are two general types of screening instruments available for fitness professional use with clients:

  1. A health history questionnaire;
  2. A PAR-Q form.

A health history questionnaire requires the taking of health history information from the client and thereafter the maintenance of that information on a confidential basis.  It also requires that the fitness professional possess sufficient expertise to properly interpret and analyze the health history questionnaire responses and in interpreting that data, to provide accurate recommendations to the client.

The use of a PAR-Q form on the other hand, requires neither the maintenance of private health history information nor the interpretation of the results of the PAR-Q screening process.  The PAR-Q is basically a self-utilized instrument by which the client determines whether or not the client needs to seek and obtain medical advice and clearance prior to the commencement of a fitness or other activity program.  In the event that the questionnaire indicates to the client that they should be screened by a health care professional prior to the commencement of a fitness program, then the duty to follow up and obtain that clearance is upon the client.  In the event that a client chooses not to seek health care provider clearance, then a fitness professional should definitely have the client sign a waiver/release document in those jurisdictions where such documents are recognized.  In the jurisdictions where releases are not recognized, the fitness professional should use an assumption of risk form to evidence the assumption of the risk by the client related to the failure to complete the screening process.  However, a copy of the PAR-Q document should be maintained by the fitness professional either in hard-copy or other document form and the client’s decision to seek or not seek clearance should be noted in the client’s file.  If possible, the client’s decision not to obtain clearance should be evidenced on a form with the client’s signature.  When clearance is obtained, a copy of the clearance or a client’s signature evidencing the clearance should be included in the client’s file.

Are you using such a screening device?  If not, why not?  Be aware that the standard of care requires the use of such screening devices!



David Herbert

David Herbert

David L. Herbert, Attorney at Law, David L. Herbert & Associates, LLC, Attorneys & Counselors at Law, Canton, Ohio 44718; http://www.herblaw.com/ Editor, The Exercise, Sports and Sports Medicine Standards & Malpractice Reporter PRC Publishing, Inc., Canton, Ohio 44735; http://www.prcpublishing.com/ David L. Herbert, JD is an Ohio lawyer and Editor of The Exercise, Sports and Sports Medicine Standards & Malpractice Reporter now in current form, in its 27th year of publication. He has helped write and/or served as legal counsel for published standards and guidelines developed for the health and fitness industry by ACSM, NSCA, NSF and AFAA. David has worked in law-related fields associated with these and other matters for over 35 years and has provided services to ACSM, NSCA, ACE, AFAA, ISSA, NBFE and numerous other similar organizations. He has made presentations to various audiences for ACSM, AHA, NSCA, NATA, IHRSA, NIRSA, AACVPR, HeartWatchers International, the Cleveland Clinic, as well as many other hospitals, professional organizations and educational facilities. He is the author or co-author of 47 books and book chapters and over a 1,000 articles in the field, including a new fictional book entitled The Personal Trainer; A Tale of Pain, Gain, Greed & Lust, a legal thriller that focuses on the fitness industry’s interaction with the legal system, see, www.thepersonaltraineronline.com.

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