Liability for Youth Concussions
In 2011, the Pennsylvania legislature passed The Safety in Youth Sports Act, which was primarily aimed at decreasing the number of concussions suffered by children and teenagers in the state. To this end, the law requires school sports programs to take specific precautionary measures. Failing to fulfill these responsibilities can have serious consequences, including permanent injury, so if your child sustained a concussion while playing a school sport, it is important to contact an experienced personal injury attorney who can explain your legal options.
The Dangers of Concussions
A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) that is usually caused by a blow to the head. Over the last decade, the number of teens who visit the hospital for sports-related head injuries has significantly increased, especially for those who participate in football, soccer, hockey, and wrestling. While some concussions are mild, others can have serious consequences, such as:
- Memory loss;
- Mood swings;
- Slower reaction time;
- Sleep disturbances, including insomnia;
- Recurring headaches;
- Sensitivity to light or noise;
- Nausea and vomiting; and
- Difficulty focusing.
Teenagers between 15 and 19 years old are especially at risk of suffering from these types of symptoms because their brains are not completely developed. Failing to allow the brain enough time to heal after a head injury can further endanger a child’s health because once a youth has sustained one concussion, he or she is more likely to suffer from additional head injuries. This can slow recovery and increase the chances of permanent brain damage. To help prevent these types of tragic results, the Pennsylvania legislature passed a law aimed at increasing awareness about the dangers of youth concussions.
Pre-Season Legal Requirements
Under The Safety in Youth Sports Act, parents of students who participate in athletic activities must sign and return a concussion and traumatic brain injury (TBI) information sheet before the start of season. These informational sheets should contain certain information, including:
- The nature and risk of concussions and TBIs;
- The risks associated with continuing to practice or play after sustaining a concussion or TBI; and
- Information compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The law also encourages schools to hold informational meetings before the start of each athletic season about:
- The dangers of concussions and head injuries;
- The importance of proper concussion management; and
- How preseason baseline assessment can help in the evaluation, management, and concussion recovery process.
Informational meetings should include attendance by some or all of the following individuals:
- School officials;
- Athletic trainers; and
- Physical therapists.
Once a game official, coach, certified athletic trainer, licensed physician, or physical therapist has determined that a student athlete has begun to exhibit signs of a concussion, that player must immediately be removed from the game or practice. Furthermore, the student cannot begin to play until he or she has been evaluated and cleared in writing by a medical professional. Finally, a coach must complete a concussion management certification training course each school year before he or she is allowed to begin coaching. A coach or school entity that fails to implement these rules faces harsh penalties, including possible permanent suspension.
Unfortunately, the law only covers school sports programs, although the sponsors of other types of youth athletic activities are urged to follow the same guidelines.
Contact a Dedicated Philadelphia Personal Injury Attorney Today
Although many schools across the state carefully implement these policies, some unfortunately, do not. In these cases, parents of an injured child may be able to hold the negligent parties responsible and collect damages to cover the cost of medical bills, pain and suffering, and other related costs. At van der Veen, O’Neill, Hartshorn, and Levin, we are dedicated to helping our clients find peace of mind by aggressively representing their interests. If your child suffered a concussion during a sport and you were not warned of the risks, please call 215-546-1000 to schedule a free consultation.