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.