September is here and that means cooler weather, classes starting and sports seasons beginning. As an ex-football player who injured himself, I realize now how dangerous some sporting events can be for the participants. Over my career, I suffered numerous orthopedic injuries including knee injuries, neck injuries and back injuries from which I still suffer from some symptoms. Some people injured in playtime, ask: “Can I Sue”. In this article, William Hurst, Esq. goes in depth on this very issue.
The CDC Estimates
The CDC estimates that high school athletes account for an estimated 2 million injuries, 500,000 doctor visits, and 30,000 hospitalizations annually. According to the American Heart Association, there are approximately 4.6 sports-related deaths per million population each year.
High School Athletes
Keep in mind that those statistics reflect only high school athletes not to mention little league and college sports. A common injury found among athletes is a head or brain injury which includes concussions. Sports related head injuries including traumatic brain injuries are among the most common attributing for nearly “21 percent of all traumatic brain injuries among American children and adolescents.”
Traumatic Brain Injury
A Traumatic Brain Injury is generally defined as a sudden trauma to the brain which can be caused when your head hits an object, an object pierces brain tissue or it may be a “closed head” injury such as a concussion. Symptoms of a head injury or concussion may include dizziness, headaches, loss of balance, concentration issues, memory loss, problems with sensory perception like blurred vision, sensitivity to light or sound, problems sleeping and sudden mood changes.
Most Injuries Happen in Training Practice
Most organized sports related injuries (62 percent) occur during practices rather than games. Despite this fact, a third of parents often do not take the same safety precautions during their child’s practices as they would for a game. This should be a concern for parents that cannot make it to practices because of work or other obligations.
Football is a sport involving practice many days a week and parents should be sure that they are educated and informed about injuries; and in particular concussions. Alabama recently enacted a law requiring recreational or youth organizations inform the coaches and parents about the risks of concussions and other brain injuries. It also states that sports or recreational organizations must ensure that coaches receive annual training on recognizing symptoms of a concussion and how to seek appropriate medical attention. The recent law even requires athletes with a previous head injury to receive approval from a licensed physician before re-entering the sport! According to an American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) study utilizing CPSC data, there were 46,948 football related brain injuries and 446,788 sports related brain injuries.
While parents may not be able to attend every practice you can help prevent head injuries by doing some things such as:
1. Make sure they are wearing a molded mouthpiece
2. Parents should always check your children’s pads and make sure they fit properly.
3. Shoulder pads should be tight and completely cover the shoulders.
4. The ear pads should be snug but not too tight on the ears.
5. Check the air inside the helmet pads, the pads should not crumple to the touch.
Sports related head injuries have been a topic of major concern lately. On July 17, 2012, football related injuries entered the legal arena when a panel of Federal Court Judges decided to consolidate the many concussion related claims against Riddell (a helmet and pad manufacturer) into a single multi district litigation. The Plaintiffs’ (a group of retired NFL players) complaint alleges that Riddell inaccurately marketed their “Revolution” helmet as safer because it reduced the risk of concussion by 31% and players are currently suffering from the long term effects of a head injury. Additionally, the players have included design and manufacturing defect claims against Riddell.
While serious football related injuries include for the most part hip and knee injuries, orthopedic injuries, spinal injuries and even death, the current focus seems to be on the prevention of head injuries especially concussions.
So what should you do if you or your child is injured in an Indiana sports related accident? In Indiana it depends on whether the other party’s behavior was reasonable. In 2011, the Indiana Supreme Court decided Pfenning v. Lineman a case where a sixteen year old girl was struck by an errant golf ball while she was riding in a golf cart causing her multiple facial fractures, permanent disfigurement and other personal injuries. The Court stated that a golfer hitting an errant drive which struck the girl in the golf cart was within the range of ordinary behavior and as a matter of law not considered a breach of duty required in successful negligence actions. They went on to state that “in negligence claims against a participant in a sports activity, if the conduct of such participant is within the range of ordinary behavior of participants in the sport, the conduct is reasonable as a matter of law and does not constitute a breach of duty.” However, they did state that a participant may breach their duty if the behavior is reckless or intentional.
What Courts Say About Getting Money for These Injuries
The Indiana Pfenning court looked at other States and found similar decisions. They stated, “many have adopted some variety of the general formulation that no duty is owed by a sports participant except to refrain from intentional injury or reckless conduct” including California, New York, Utah, & Texas. The Court went on to say that even more States have come to the same “no duty” conclusion but for public policy reasons including States: Massachusetts, Montana, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Ohio.
Regardless, if you, your child or a loved one has suffered a serious sports injury then you should seek immediate medical attention. In cases of a head injury, the subtle symptoms can be difficult to recognize so educating yourself is important. There is a wealth of information on the Internet and when in doubt seek professional assistance from a medical doctor.
Ask An Attorney
If you or a loved one has suffered an Indiana sports related injury due to the intentional or reckless conduct of another person, then contact the Law Office of William W Hurst. We have over 35 years of experience handling sports injury cases and will review your case for free. If you are out of state call 1-800-636-0808.