- Schools are facing a potential lawsuit epidemic in regard to sports-related concussions and other injuries, Cort T. Malone, an insurance shareholder and Attorney Jorge R. Aviles write in District Administration.
- Discussing recent litigation regarding football-related concussions, they note that the courts dismissed a 2015 class action lawsuit filed against a state association because the association took steps to make football safer and that imposing costly requirements could force some schools to drop the sport.
- Because of this exposure, school districts need to carefully check existing insurance policies to make sure coverage for such cases is adequate and to consider the addition of specialty policies such as concussion insurance now offered in some states.
While this article focuses in preparing for potential lawsuits related to sports-related concussions, the first obligation of schools is to try to do everything possible to prevent such injuries from occurring in the first place. While most schools focus on game safety, a 2015 study presented in the Journal of American Medical Association reported that football practices were the main source of injury and concluded that “concussions during practice might be mitigated and should prompt an evaluation of technique and head impact exposure. Although it is more difficult to change the intensity or conditions of a game, many strategies can be used during practice to limit player-to-player contact and other potentially injurious behaviors.”
Another recent study found brain effects in high school football players even if they were not diagnosed with concussions. Although the study concluded that more research is needed on the long-term effects of football, the recent knowledge of the potential negative effects of football on young brains has led some school districts to reconsider the place of football in the high school arena despite the college scholarship potential.
The effects of concussions cannot be ignored in other sports as well. A 2011 study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine concluded that “although the collision sports of football and boys’ lacrosse had the highest number of concussions and football the highest concussion rate, concussion occurred in all other sports and was observed in girls’ sports at rates similar to or higher than those of boys’ sports. The increase over time in all sports may reflect actual increased occurrence or greater coding sensitivity with widely disseminated guidance on concussion detection and treatment. The high-participation collision sports of football and boys’ lacrosse warrant continued vigilance, but the findings suggest that focus on concussion detection, treatment, and prevention should not be limited to those sports traditionally associated with concussion risk.”