Changes in sports and public policy are happening quickly since retired National Football League players sued the league for lifelong injuries resulting from concussions. The players agreed to an estimated $1 billion settlement for brain damage, including Lou Gehrig’s disease, dementia and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).
Sports-related concussions became legal news largely due to the what plaintiffs’ lawyers forced to the surface: The NFL knew about the players’ exposure to severe brain damage from repeated hits to the head. The NFL’s initial denials went so far as to produce a clinical study showing players “did not endure repeated blows to the head.”
Much evidence points to the contrary. Posthumous brain studies of nearly 200 players indicate a majority had CTE or some type of concussive damage. Prominent players had CTE, such as Frank Gifford and Kenny Stabler. The suicides of Junior Seau and other players are also being linked to CTE. Younger stars are citing preserving their health among reasons for retiring early, including the New York Jets’ D’Drickashaw Ferguson, 32, and Super Bowl winning players Marshawn Lynch and Jerod Mayo, both 29.
The massive scope of the NFL players’ lawsuits is giving leverage to critics of coaches, trainers, team and school officials for pushing players too hard after a hit to the head. This is true especially in youth sports, in which personal injury and wrongful death suits have been filed and settled as more continue to pop up in courts around the country.
Brain Injuries in Youth Sports
State lawmakers are stepping in to create safety policies for kids. All 50 states have “return to play laws” aimed at protecting young players who’ve been hit in the head. Now, certain medical and safety steps be taken before sending an injured student back on the field.
The largest youth league in the country altered the game to minimize risks to youth and boost sagging enrollment due to parents’ anxiety about injuries. Pop Warner announced the Little Scholars program is eliminating kickoffs to protect children aged 5-10.
That wasn’t enough to block a federal class action filing in California this month by mothers of two boys who played in Pop Warner, the largest youth football league in the nation. Both boys were found to have had CTE. Pop Warner knowingly put the young players in danger by ignoring the risks of head trauma and failed to monitor just about every aspect of the game that affects a youngster’s health, the suit says. The mothers also accused the league of “callous disregard.”
There are between 1.6 and 3.8 million concussions a year in the United States, many of them sport-related. A lot of these injuries are among young athletes, from grade school to college. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in May launched a campaign to educate coaches, trainers, school officials and parents about signs and symptoms of brain injuries, what to do about them and what the laws say.
Signs and symptoms of concussions aren’t often immediate and can show up as long as a month after an injury. Not everyone is aware they have had a brain injury, especially if it’s mild. Some people who do know might not want to admit it. To this end, the CDC has a helpful chart with symptoms divided into the categories of thinking/remembering, physical, emotional and sleep.
The CDC also posts head injury prevention tips for the young and old – on fields, courts, rinks, playgrounds and just about anyplace else.
Georgia Brain Injury Attorney
HLM has decades of experience representing clients with traumatic brain injuries. If you need help, contact us for a free consultation. Call us toll-free at 404.998.8847 or fill out our online contact form.