Youth Football Player Suffers Traumatic Brain Injury

    Sports Injury ExpertThis case involves a teenage boy who played on a youth football team in Mississippi. His coach, who had limited coaching experience with regards to safety and traumatic brain injury, insisted that he play the duration of a game against a much larger,  more physically imposing rival team. The players on the opposing team were notorious for spearing, and on several instances the young man involved in this case was speared directly in the helmet. After sustaining these tackles, the player complained to his coach that he did not feel well and the coach advised that he ought to play through the end of the game, and to take a Motrin or Tylenol once the game was finished. As a result of this repeated helmet to helmet contact, the young man had sustained a severe subdural hematoma, and suffered a traumatic brain injury.

    Question(s) For Expert Witness

    • 1. Do you have experience authoring / developing safety protocols for a youth football league?
    • 2. Does a coach have an obligation to his/her players to ensure their safety in the instance of spearing by a larger, more physically adept opposing team?
    • 3. If a youth player complains after a significant helmet to helmet hit, does a coach have an obligation to take the player out of the game and ensure he hasn't suffered a severe concussion or traumatic brain injury prior to insisting that the young adult remain in play for the duration of the game?

    Expert Witness Response E-001519

    Football coaches, and especially youth football coaches, absolutely have an obligation to take a player out of the game if that player is complaining after suffering a significant helmet to helmet hit. I served a one year tenure as a Division 1A Director of Athletics at a major University in the Big South Conference (2005) where student-athlete safety of various persuasions was always very high on any sports leader’s mind. I hold a Ph.D. in Sport Psychology and post doctoral fellowship from Florida State University, where I taught for 3+ decades as an Adjunct Sport Management Faculty and taught a class titled “Youth in Sport,” where contact sport safety was a key teaching issue. For many decades I have measured the risks of playing, coaching, parenting, and administrating American rules football.

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