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How to Systematically Manage the Risks of Sports Concussions

(In an article that appears in Concussion Litigation Reporter, attorneys Patricia  K. Buchanan, J.D., M.B.A. and Donald F. Austin, M.A.T., J.D. of Patterson Buchanan Fobes Leitch & Kalzer, Inc. P.S. offer some suggestions for systematically managing the risks of sports concussions.)

In 2002, an  athlete might have experienced a mild concussion in a game, and under National  Federation of High School Activities Associations (NFHS) return-to-play guidelines, could  return to the game 15 minutes later, so long as the player had been free of  symptoms for 15 minutes. That was standard of care then but is now recognized  by doctors trained in concussions to be a dangerous practice.

While NFHS  changed its guidelines in 2005, many schools undoubtedly have not. Some schools trained coaches regarding sports concussions, but the quality of training  varied and not all coaches were trained. Coaches often did what seemed to make  sense individually at the time, a dangerous thing to do in a medical  emergency.  Since 2005, concussion  return-to-play guidelines have changed considerably. In order to protect  athletes from preventable injuries, and protect schools from litigation, schools need to systematically address sports concussion prevention on a state and district level.

This article offers some suggestions on how to do that  based on Washington State’s experience. To begin  with, Sports Risk Management experts inform us that athletic injuries are caused by one of, or a combination of, six  variables. Schools have some control over five of these variables. Changes in  laws and understanding of sports concussions, as well as the public’s increasing  awareness of the dangers of such concussions, will likely generate more  litigation against schools. Skilled attorneys representing injured athletes  will use the five variables over which schools have control to find a way of  blaming the school for a particular injury. Likewise, schools that take  reasonable precautions to prevent sports injuries can demonstrate that they  have systematically taken measures to prevent such injuries, making it more likely that jurors will conclude that the injury was not the schools’ fault.

Subscribers to Concussion Litigation Reporter can read the rest of the article by visiting: https://concussionpolicyandthelaw.com/concussion-litigation-reporter/concussion-litigation-reporter-august-2012/

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Family of Deceased Player Goes After NFL, While another Player Says Motive Is To Help Next Generation

As the number of players being represented in litigation against the NFL soars to 3,000, the stories, circumstances and spin continue to vary.

For example, the family of Chris Riehm, an offensive lineman for the Raiders from 1986 to 1988 who died in March, has sued the NFL, alleging that repeated head injuries was a cause or contributing factor in his death, and that the NFL “promoted and mythologized” violence.

The suit alleges wrongful death, negligence and fraud, and is seeking unspecified damages.

Meanwhile, former player Derrick Walker, who played nine NFL seasons for the San Diego Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders, has filed a concussion lawsuit in Detroit. Interestingly, the lawsuit claims that Walker was cleared by team staff on various occasions and was directed to return to the field, exposing him to further serious injuries.

His lawyer told the Detroit News that Walker hopes to help future players as well.

“Most importantly, Mr. Walker wants to have a seat at the table and a voice that can be heard regarding any resolution concerning matters where he is concerned as well as assist future generation(s) of NFL players in being protected against the injuries to which Mr. Walker’s generation were unnecessarily exposed,” the attorney said.

The extensive story can be read here: http://www.freep.com/article/20120724/NEWS01/120724034/national-football-league-NFL-lawsuit-concussions-U-S-district-court-detroit?odyssey=nav%7Chead

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Study Finds that Flunking Baseline Test Not as Easy as Thought

As more and more concussion lawsuits are filed, at least one point of contention may be whether an athlete tried to do poorly on a pre-concussion baseline test. Why would an athlete do that? So that after suffering a concussion he or she would be able to get back into the contest, rather than sitting on the bench.

But a better question, in light of a recent study, is can the athlete purposefully bomb a test?

According to a report that was recently published in an article in Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology, probably not.

In the first study of its kind, 75 collegiate athletes were told to try and do their absolute worst on the ImPACT baseline test. Only 11 percent were able to successfully cheat the system and have their efforts to intentionally fail go undetected.

In the original article entitled Knocked Out, David Hovda, director for UCLA’s Brain Injury Research Center, said that the ImPACT test was “better than nothing” in determining possible brain injuries, but with tests involving individual performances, “there’s always going to be variances.”

Those variances may make even more difficult to spot a player intentionally trying to fail a baseline test.

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