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Time-out! Are We Any Closer to Eliminating Serious Head Injuries in Football?

Attorney Rivers J. Morrell III

Friday, January 02, 2015



Time-out! Are We Any Closer to Eliminating Serious Head Injuries in Football?

It’s football season across America and here in Orange County, a mecca for high performance sports, high school football is near mid-season. Thousands of our athletes are injured during the fall every year. In addition to common ankle and knee injuries, many athletes suffer minor or major concussions as a result of the physical nature of football. Head injuries, on the whole, are the most dangerous type of damage the body can sustain in football. No other contact sport leads to as many serious brain injuries as football does. So why aren’t we doing more to eliminate serious head injuries? Who’s accepting responsibility?

Friday Night Lights and Concussions

The actual number of concussions that occur in football is difficult to determine due to under reporting of concussions. However, Time magazine reported in January 2010 that “high school football players alone suffer 43,000 to 67,000 concussions per year” and “the true incidence is likely much higher, as more than 50% of concussed athletes are suspected of failing to report their symptoms”. This is often due to the athletes inability to recognize the symptoms of a concussion. With the 2010 high school football season in full motion, The National Federation of State High School Associations has revised its rules on concussions and now require that “any player who shows signs, symptoms or behaviors associated with a concussion must be removed from the game and shall not return to play until cleared by an appropriate health-care professional.” This new rule is a great step but it doesn’t address head injuries during practice and doesn’t solve the problem of undetected concussions.

The Punch-drunk NFL Alumni – Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy

During Week 1 in the NFL, four concussions were reported. The NFL has been conducting research on retired players to test the affects of concussions on the long-term health of their players. Studies are recognizing a disturbing trend of a debilitating disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, which has common symptoms of a retired boxer – depression, sudden memory loss, and even paranoia.

Helmets, Seeing Stars, and Concussion Defined

While football helmets prevent bumps and bruises and serious skull fractures, they don’t stop the brain from banging against the skull, which leads to concussion. What is a concussion? A concussion is a brain injury that is caused by a sudden blow to the head or to the body. The blow shakes the brain inside the skull, bruising and stretching the tissue, which temporarily prevents the brain from working normally. Some athletes have obvious symptoms of a concussion (such as passing out or feeling lightheaded), others “see stars” momentarily and continue playing instead of resting. Repeated blows to the head, which are routine in football, may require surgery and can have lifelong repercussions on one’s ability to move, learn, or speak as described with CTE. By resting a few hours to a few weeks, athletes can fully recover from a concussion.

While I am a fan of football, having played during my youth, something has to be done to reduce, significantly, the high number of football related head injuries. In addition, more needs to be done to help ex-football players deal with the aforementioned problems associated with repeated concussions. If you or a family member suspects a concussion or symptoms from repeated concussions, contact a qualified doctor immediately.

Is there a case for legal action with football?

Lawsuits in contact sports are typically not pursued unless there is an obvious intent to injure outside the scope of regulated football, such as a coach punching a player or another player throwing a helmet to intentionally hurt another player, coach, or fan: or if an instance of violence happens off the field, such as a fan throwing a bottle at an athlete. The common view in the courts is that athletes understand and accept the risks involved with playing football and, therefore, responsible for the risks associated with playing football. However, that doesn’t necessary mean that other entities and individuals connected, and possibly responsible, for one’s football head injuries, aren’t liable for their negligence. If you feel other entities or individuals have had a hand in your, or your family member’s, head injury or symptoms from previous head injury, you may want to consider consulting an attorney about the matter.

Note from HandelontheLaw.com: This article is to be used as an educational guide only and should not be interpreted as a legal consultation. Readers of this article are advised to seek an attorney if a legal consultation is needed. Laws may vary by state and are subject to change, thus the accuracy of this information can not be guaranteed. Readers act on this information solely at their own risk. Neither the author, handelonthelaw.com, or any of its affiliates shall have any liability stemming from this article.





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