Over the last decade our society has learned that the risk of brain injury from playing football is much higher than previously thought. The news media has reported on a number of former professional players who have been diagnosed with brain damage, and the National Football League is struggling to cope with the issue. The issue is not limited to the pros, however. High school and college players are also at risk, as a tragic story from Montana illustrates.
The family of a high school football player from Belt, Montana has brought a lawsuit against his school district, his coach, the team’s trainer and the health care provider that employed the trainer. The 18-year-old student suffered a concussion in a game and a doctor told him he should not attend practice for ten days. The coach and the trainer allowed him to participate in a practice and play in a varsity game before that ten-day period was up, however.
The player collapsed on the sidelines during the game and was rushed to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury. Despite undergoing surgery to reduce the pressure on his brain, the young man is now a quadriplegic. He cannot speak, suffers seizures, and has cognitive and memory deficits.
As the link between football and permanent brain damage becomes more clear, high schools and colleges will have to implement policies to minimize the risk. The law in this area is likely going to develop on a case-by-case basis, as courts and juries struggle to determine who should be held accountable for a player’s permanent disability.
Source: Billings Gazette, “Family of paralyzed Montana football player sues school, hospital,” March 15, 2016