Tag Archives: high school
(Editor’s Note: What follows is an excerpt from the December issue of Concussion Litigation Reporter)
Time will tell whether a class action lawsuit filed earlier this month by a former high school quarterback against the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) will be the first of many copycat lawsuits around the country.
The plaintiff in the case is Daniel Bukal, who was a star quarterback at Notre Dame College Prep in Niles, Ill. from 1999 to 2003. The plaintiff, who never played college football, alleged in the lawsuit that the “criteria” for returning him to the playing field “was not uniform and followed no consistent, medical protocol that would ensure (that his) return to the field would be safe.” Because of this, he allegedly suffered multiple concussions, which have led to migraines and some memory loss.
Like many associations, the IHSA did not have concussion protocols in place at the time. This placed Bukal and other high school football players at risk, according to the lawsuit.
Bukal, who is represented by Chicago-based attorney Joseph Siprut, is asking the IHSA to tighten rules regarding head injuries and concussions, and include baseline testing and other initiatives. Siprut represented several former college athletes in the recent concussion lawsuit against the NCAA. That litigation was settled with the NCAA committing $70 million to a medical monitoring program to test athletes for traumatic brain injuries. The settlement, which is before a judge, is mired in some controversy about who the winner in the case is – the plaintiffs, their attorneys, or the NCAA.
Siprut told the media that he intends to file lawsuits against other state high school athletic associations. He has not targeted the National Federation of State High School Associations because it does not exert the same control over its members that the NCAA does.
As for the Illinois litigation, the class being specified includes every high school football player who participated for an IHSA member school from 2002 to the present.
Among some of the more unique aspects of the lawsuit …
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(Editor’s note: the following is an update to an article that appeared in the June issue of Concussion Litigation Reporter. At the time it was published, there was some question about whether a settlement had been reached. For more stories like this subscribe to CLR.)
A state court judge in Montana has enforced a settlement agreement between the Three Forks School District and a former high school student athlete who suffered a severe concussion in a football practice in 2012.
The settlement calls for Michael Rouchleau and his parents to receive $300,000 as well as lifetime medical care up to $5 million through a catastrophic insurer.
There was some controversy after the settlement was initially agreed to in the summer of 2013. Reportedly, the plaintiffs had second thoughts about whether the amount would cover future medical expenses
The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported that “three of Rouchleau’s own attorneys testified that their client agreed to the settlement but that his mother, Kim Rouchleau, got in the way.”
The plaintiffs alleged in their 2012 complaint that the player’s coaches were negligent when they sent him back on to the field to practice with the team, in spite of a doctor’s recommendation.
According to the lawsuit, Michael and another player suffered concussions and were vomiting on the field after being involved in a head-to-head tackle during practice on August 21, 2009. It was the second such head collision Michael had experienced that day.
A doctor later diagnosed Michael with a concussion and ordered that he not play for 11 days. When the coaches were notified of his limitations, they “indicated that if Michael wanted stay on the team, he would have to show up for practices, but that he would not be asked to play football until medically cleared,” the court document states.
However, the Rouchleaus claimed that six days after his initial injury, the coaches told Michael “to get out and hit bags, stating it wouldn’t be considered contact play.” They “also told Michael that if he wanted to play varsity, he would have to get off the bench and run some plays,” which he did, according to the suit. During these plays, a shoulder-to-helmet hit with the team’s largest linebacker knocked Michael unconscious and “he woke to find himself being carried off the field.”
“Despite being knocked unconscious and receiving an obvious second concussion, the coaches did not call 911, did not contact the school nurse and did not contact Michael’s parents,” in violation of school policy, the lawsuit alleges. Instead, “they merely sat him on the sidelines and sent him home after practice.”
The Rouchleaus’ other son, who also played on the team, told his mother of the incident and a subsequent medical examination revealed Michael suffered another concussion.
However, according to David Dalthorp, the school district’s attorney, “Michael’s coaches did not instruct him to participate in contact drills or otherwise go against his doctor’s orders.”
In addition, the Rouchleaus further alleged that when their son returned to school, he “became the subject of ridicule and teasing by his coaches, teachers, and peers.” His parents eventually sent Michael to live with family in California to attend school and receive rehabilitation for his brain injury. He attempted to attend Montana State University in the fall, but according to his attorney Michael Sand, it did not go well.
The lawsuit sought damages for past and future mental and physical pain and suffering, medical costs, lost earnings and other damages.
The NFL is highlighting the fact that a new study presented at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons in New Orleans on March 14 suggests risks of sport-related brain injuries in high school are “relatively low,” according to an article in Science Daily.
The study’s lead author was Dr. Gregory Stewart, associate professor of orthopaedics at Tulane University School of Medicine. The study of high school players found no link between years of play and any decline in neurocognitive function. Researchers retrospectively reviewed data obtained between August 1998 and August 2001 on 1,289 New Orleans high school football players, including years of participation, age and concussion history, as well as scores on common neuropsychological tests
“The correlation between the number of years of football participation and the performance on the digit symbol substitution test does not support the hypothesis that participation in a collision sport negatively affects neurocognitive function,” Stewart said. “The implication is that the playing of football is not in and of itself detrimental.”
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