It was January 27, 2017 when two rival schools from the Desert Sands Unified School District clashed on the soccer field. Though everyone came out to enjoy the game, what unfolded changed the course of one young man’s life. Now, a concussion lawsuit has been filed stating that the school district could have done more to prevent this injury. But what does California law say in cases like this?
Could a School District Be Responsible for a Concussion Lawsuit?
A 16-year-old soccer player from Shadow Hills High was dicing it up on the field with players from Indio High School. He had broken away, was heading toward the goal, and then his feet came out from under him. A defender was close on his heels at the time, and though the details of what happened are a bit fuzzy, it’s clear that the 16-year-old was struck in the back of the head.
The boy didn’t lose consciousness, and got up insisting on continuing the game, despite having told the referee that his head hurt. He was allowed to continue playing when disaster struck again. While going up for a header, a defender’s elbow crashed into the 16-year-old’s head. This time, the soccer player was so rocked that he couldn’t see straight, nor could he distinguish who was on his own team. He was benched, but when he asked for medical attention, the school’s athletic trainer reportedly laughed and never came.
After receiving no help from school officials, the player was forced to call a friend to take him home. From there he was transported to the hospital where he learned he had suffered a severe concussion. Days later he had to return to the hospital when he became feverish and nauseous. His concussion was so severe that he suffered massive headaches, problem solving issues, and now has difficulty speaking. This former honor roll student barely managed to graduate his senior year, and the scholarship to Vanguard University may be threatened by his slow recovery from this injury.
This injury, its effects, and Shadow Hills High’s alleged neglect has led the former soccer player to file a lawsuit against his coach and the school district. The suit alleges that the 16-year-old should never have been allowed back on the field without being medically evaluated, and that he should have received medical care from school officials after the second hit that forced him onto the bench. However, he could have a long legal battle ahead of him.
California’s laws on what type of medical care schools must provide for their student athletes are described by some experts as lax. In California, schools are required to have athletic trainers, but there are no requirements when it comes to minimum standards for these workers. This has led to few of these trainers being certified, which has led to a problem with diagnosing concussions on the field. California law also requires that student athletes be taken out of a game once they have suffered a concussion, in order to prevent “second impact syndrome”, which can cause severe and long-lasting symptoms. However, if athletic trainers are not properly trained to identify these injuries, then how effective will these laws be at protecting our children?
Several lawsuits all over the nation have been filed, accusing school districts of neglect when it comes to concussions. Many of these cases have led to million-dollar verdicts and settlements, and have forced many schools to improve their concussion protocol to better protect students. Only time will tell if the case filed by this Shadow Hills student will do the same, but victims of this kind of neglect shouldn’t wait to find out about this verdict. Contacting an attorney with experience handling traumatic brain injury cases could be the only way to protect your child’s future after they have sustained a second impact concussion.