An Ohio high school football player’s parents are suing his coaches
over their son’s brain injuries. According to a
story in The Columbus Dispatch, the parents allege that the coaches sanctioned
a dangerous hazing ritual last September that ultimately led to their
son’s injuries. The 16-year-old now suffers from learning and memory
problems, and the parents are attempting to hold two of his coaches and
his school liable.
The lawsuit, which was filed in federal court earlier this week, accuses
the coaches and school of allowing a hazing ritual, in which one football
player was required to let other players hit him as hard as they could,
without defending himself. While being subjected to this ritual during
practice, the plaintiffs’ son allegedly fell and struck the back
of his head on the ground. He began vomiting and later collapsed. After
he collapsed, he was helped to the locker room, yet no one called an ambulance
or thought to take him to the hospital. His parents finally took him to
a local hospital after he arrived home.
Liability for Hazing that Leads to Injuries
The parents’ lawsuit includes an allegation of excessive force, essentially
claiming that the practice ritual required their son to accept injury
to his person, in violation of his rights. Since the high school is public,
the lawsuit asserts that the coaches were acting under government authority
when requiring or allowing the deliberate violence against the boy. If
a court agrees, the school could be found liable for the player’s injuries.
The typical defense for a coach, in cases involving sports injuries, is
that the player assumes the risk when he signs up to play the sport. That
can be especially compelling in football, which everyone knows is a dangerous
sport. However, when it comes to hazing rituals that have nothing to do
with the sport itself, that defense becomes much more difficult to sustain.
The Ohio case is similar to a
2009 lawsuit in which a coach was sued for requiring a player to be a live tackling
dummy for the rest of the football team.
It is a crime in Ohio to participate in or recklessly allow hazing, but
the two coaches have not been charged in criminal court. While criminal
convictions would have been helpful to the plaintiffs in civil court,
the coaches and school could still be found liable and ordered to pay
damages to the family. In addition to the hazing issue, the Ohio case
highlights the emerging controversy over concussions in football, their
long-term impact on the
brains of athletes, and steps that should be taken to increase player safety.
What to Do if Your Child Has Suffered a Brain Injury Playing Football
If your child has suffered a brain injury while playing football or another
sport, you should contact a personal injury attorney immediately. An attorney
can review the facts of your case and determine whether you have a viable
claim. If so, they can help you seek the compensation you deserve.