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Settlement Could Change How Traumatic Brain Injuries Addressed in College Athletics

A recent settlement between the State of Maryland and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (“NCAA”) may change the way college sports injuries are addressed. An article in The Baltimore Sun discussed the settlement, noting that while the payment to the victim’s family is relatively small, it could have far-reaching implications for other injuries and similar lawsuits across the country. The article explains that the State of Maryland became involved in the lawsuit because the victim’s family’s initial million-dollar claim named three state employees working in athletic capacities at a state university as among the defendants in the lawsuit.

Allegations

The case centers around preseason drills that took place during a practice in 2011. According to the allegations in the lawsuit, players had been forced to complete a series of physically difficult practice drills, allegedly including running into each other helmet first even though regulations are supposed to prohibit such practices. Additionally, the lawsuit alleged that the state employees discouraged players from reporting injuries sustained during drills and practices, often ridiculing players that would choose to report such injuries anyhow.

The victim in this case had gotten a concussion during the previous season and had been taking part in rigorous practice drills for several days, during which he allegedly showed persistent bleeding from his forehead. After several of the allegedly questionable training drills had been completed, the victim complained to an assistant coach about a headache and not feeling very well. Another teammate was allegedly set to testify that the assistant coach in question told the victim to stop complaining and return to the field. The victim did return to the field and continued performing assigned drills until he collapsed a short time after. Unfortunately, the victim never regained consciousness after that point and died six days later. The family and lawsuit allege that this death was the result of “second-impact syndrome,” which occurs when a person receives another blow to the head shortly after having had a concussion. The cases specific allegations against the NCA
Potential Impact

The victim’s parents have stated that they want to force change in the way college athletic associations and teams handle potentially serious injuries. The lawsuit contends that not enough has been done to adequately address potentially life-threatening traumatic brain injuries, like the one the victim received in this case. The case against the NCAA focused on the level of knowledge about second-impact syndrome within the NCAA and whether or not it had done enough to educate member institutions about the potential dangers of the condition. In fact, a deposition related to the trial indicated that a high-ranking official at the NCAA had not even heard of second-impact syndrome.

While the exact terms of the settlement have not been made public yet, aside from the state’s portion which generally immediately becomes a matter of public record in cases like this due to laws governing state legal settlements, the hope is that more attention will be given to similar injuries moving forward. Initially, the NCAA had contended it did not have a legal obligation to players’ safety. However, a judge disagreed when he allowed the case to proceed to trial, finding that the organization’s mission statement and other regulations created a special relationship between the organization and student athletes that are a part of it. Additionally, since the beginning of the lawsuit, the NCAA has recognized that relationship. Those involved in the lawsuit hope that such recognition and taking responsibility for the importance of student athlete safety will help identify and address potentially fatal injuries moving forward.

Legal Assistance for Traumatic Brain Injuries

When traumatic brain injuries are underestimated or misdiagnosed, they can cause severe consequences and possibly death. If you or a loved one has been impacted by the severity of a traumatic brain injury sustained in sports, a car accident, or through some other incident, it is important that qualified medical personnel carefully address the potential of a traumatic brain injury, diagnose such injury properly, and treat such injuries promptly. If you or a loved one are struggling with the repercussions of a traumatic brain injury, and have questions about whether such injuries were made worse by misdiagnosis or other negligence, contact the attorneys at Levin & Perconti for a consultation. The personal injury attorneys at Levin & Perconti have experience working with a variety of clients on matters related to traumatic brain injuries, and can help you understand the potential options available to you based on the unique circumstances of your individual case.

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