Brain Injuries and Youth Football Organizations

Football is one of the most popular sport activities amongst youth and teenage boys; as a result, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued potential guidelines and recommendations for students, parents and school officials for the purpose of improving the safety of players while on the field. These recommendations are as follows:

(1) Sports trainers, coaches and athletic directors should enforce the rules for proper tackling;

(2) Parents of players and school officials must decide whether the benefits of playing the game outweigh the risks;

(3) Non-tackle leagues should be encouraged and expanded in order to give players and their parents the choice of being able to participate in football without the risk of injuries from tackling;

(4) Skilled athletic trainers should be placed on the sidelines of all games in order to reduce the number of player injuries; and
(5) Tackling should not be allowed until a certain age.

There is a caveat to the age restriction for “tackling,” however. The AAP believes that youths who are not exposed to tackling at a younger age when they are smaller in stature, may be more at risk for an increase in injuries when they are older and stronger.

The Most Recent Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed Against Pop Warner Little Scholars, Inc.

Although there have been millions of dollars in settlements paid by the NFL and the NCAA to football players and their families over concussion type brain injuries, over the past few years, there has been very little talk about any possible traumatic concussion type brain injuries suffered by children in “youth” football, until now.

In February 2015, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of Joseph Chernach, in the case of “Debra Pyka, et al. vs. Pop Warner Little Scholars, Inc., et al., for the wrongful death of Chernach, who at the age of 25, committed suicide by hanging himself.

This lawsuit was filed eight days after a Boston University study released information indicating that former NFL players who played football prior to reaching the age of twelve, were at a higher risk for brain injury causing a “cognitive” decline as an adult.

Chernach began playing football with the Pop Warner Organization when he was eleven years old. Pyka’s lawsuit alleged that Chernach suffered repeated head injuries during the three years he played with the Pop Warner Organization, resulting in post-concussion syndrome and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a condition that is usually associated with NFL players.

During the Boston University study, Chernach and 18 other individuals who played youth football were studied for possible brain injury. Chernach tested positive for CTE along with four other individuals during the study.

The complaint filed against Pop Warner alleged that Chernach was diagnosed with “Demential Pugilistica” as a result of football injuries he received during his years with the Pop Warner football league from 1997 to 2000. Demential Pugilistica is a form of chronic traumatic encephalopathy. It is a neurodegenerative disease. In 2012, Chernach committed suicide by hanging himself, allegedly because of his brain injury disease.

Most recently the Pyka lawsuit was settled. The terms of the settlement are undisclosed. See 5NBC Chicago. Whether this is the first of many such lawsuits, remains to be seen.

Brain injury leading to either disability or death as a result of brain damage is a very serious matter. To consult with an experienced brain injury attorney on this issue, or if you or a loved one is suffering from a brain injury or a brain trauma due to the actions of another, contact Levin & Perconti at (312) 332-2872 for a free consultation.

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