We’re only beginning to understand just how deep brain injuries go in the NFL. After decades of denial, the NFL finally came to terms with the staggering statistic that as many as ninety-six percent of former NFL players have some kind of brain disease. In fact, the NFL set up a medical fund for former players as part of a billion-dollar settlement that relates to brain injuries caused by repeated head trauma in football.
Nigerian-born doctor Bennet Omalu identified the crippling brain disease when he evaluated the brain of deceased NFL player Mike Webster. Omalu discovered that parts of Mike Webster’s brain showed signs of serious disease. Omalu found that repeated head trauma, such as from repeated blows to the head in the game of football, can cause the brain to begin to die. This can cause strange behavior including aggression, confusion and dementia. Follow-up studies show just how many famous football players suffer from brain disease.
What changes are in store
As a result of the concussion crisis, the NFL implemented helmet testing. Athletic trainers can also call for time outs during play to evaluate players who show signs of injuries. Some teams want to move to different tackling styles that better protect the head, but there’s no word on whether the new styles are going to be competitive.
What remains to be seen is what impact brain injuries caused by sports injuries are going to have on how high school students play the game. At the high-school level, brains are even less developed than the brains of NFL players. In addition, high schools often don’t have state-of-the-art equipment and trainers waiting for injured players.
What does this mean, legally?
High-school coaches and administrators have a duty to our young people. They need to keep our athletes safe. If a child suffers from an injury and school officials didn’t do all that they could to keep the child safe, the school and the individuals involved might face liability for the injuries.
A high school has a duty to make sure that coaches are qualified for their positions. This means that coaches should have training on possible injuries from play. Coaches or medical professionals should be on hand to respond to injuries as they occur.
If a child appears to have a brain injury, they should receive immediate treatment. They should not return to play until they are medically cleared by a trained physician. If a child with a brain injury returns to play too soon, they can suffer from secondary injuries which can be far more serious than the first. It’s up to the adults involved in high-school sports to keep our children safe.
Work with an attorney
If your child suffers a sport-related brain injury, it’s important to contact an attorney. You may have limited time to bring a claim. An attorney can help you evaluate your options to hold the school accountable and protect your loved one.