Cheerleader Fails to Clear Gross Negligence Standard in Concussion Case

(Editor’s Note: What follows is a brief synopsis of one of several case summaries in Concussion Litigation Alert. For details on this summary and others, please subscribe at https://concussionpolicyandthelaw.com/subscribe/)

A state appeals court affirmed a lower court’s ruling, granting summary disposition to a school district and coach, who were sued after a cheerleader suffered a concussion while performing a stunt.

In so ruling, the panel found that the plaintiff failed to demonstrate gross negligence on the part of the defendants. For example, the coach had provided weeks of training on the stunt prior to the injury.KENTUCKY2010 064

The plaintiff was a ninth grader when she sustained an injury. After being hired by the school district, her coach became a member of the state high school athletic association and attended meetings and camps regarding cheerleading techniques, methods and safety. As the head coach, she admitted she was responsible for monitoring the safety of her players, according to the court.

Tryouts for the fall cheerleading teams occur in the early spring. To make the teams, players are required to complete various activities and skills. An assessment of each player’s activities and skills at tryouts could require between 20 and 45 minutes, and each coach completed an assessment sheet with comments. If selected, team members would practice two to three times a week beginning in April, and then attend a summer cheerleading camp.

The coach testified that to promote safety, her teams would begin each practice with 45 minutes of conditioning and strength training, which included stretching, running, sit-ups, push-ups, hand stands, weightlifting in circuits, and jumping. She testified that she relied on the association cheerleading manual, which explains how to perform every maneuver. She would explain the maneuver step-by-step to players, and when possible, more experienced players would also demonstrate the maneuver. She would teach the players the maneuvers in “progression,” from basic to more intricate or difficult. …

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