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The Big Ten Making Big News

In September, University of Michigan Quarterback Shane Morris, suffering visible signs of confusion and dizziness with what later was diagnosed as a concussion, was nevertheless sent back into the game against Minnesota without being evaluated.  Such conduct was contrary to University of Michigan’s protocols, as well as the new recommendations issued by the NCAA in July of 2014.  The ensuing controversy led to the resignation of Michigan’s athletic director.

In November, Ohio State football player Kosta Karageorge committed suicide after apparently suffering debilitating concussions during his student athletic career.  He was recovering from a concussion he had sustained only a month before his death.  Although suicide is not directly linked to concussions, it is linked to depression, which in turn is a symptom of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Chronic Traumatic Encephalitis (CTE).  A special exam on Karageorge’s brain has been ordered as part of the autopsy in order to determine if he was suffering from TBI when he took his life at the age of 22. 

The Risks

Your Denver personal injury attorney has discussed the health risks and long-term consequences that repeated head trauma can cause student athletes in this ongoing series on TBI.  Multiple concussions can lead to what is called “post-concussion syndrome,” which has symptoms of headaches, dizziness and difficulty in concentrating. “Second impact syndrome” is one of the biggest problems in student athletics, which involves returning an athlete to play before they have recovered from an existing head trauma only to suffer another jolt to the brain can have devastating consequences.  The intensity of the so-called second impact is magnified, and so is the damage.  Long-term, repeated concussions are linked to epilepsy, vertigo, personality changes, Parkinson’s and dementia and CTE.  In fact, high school football players exhibit measurable brain changes after a single season even without suffering a concussion, simply from multiple jolts to the head and brain. 

The Recommendations

In July of 2014, the NCAA strengthened its concussion protocols as part of a settlement agreement for a class-action lawsuit brought by a dozen former college football players.  In short, the NCAA agreed to:

  1.  Institute preseason baseline neuropsychological testing for all athletes.
  2. Require all schools to have medical personnel with training in the diagnosis management, and treatment of concussions present at sports games.
  3. Create a concussion reporting system for all diagnoses, and a whistleblower system to report concerns.
  4. Provide NCAA-approved concussion education and training to athletes, coaches, athletic trainers and faculty.
  5. Donate $5 million over a 10-year period to concussion research.
  6. Prohibit any athlete diagnosed with a concussion from returning to play or practice on same day they were concussed.

The above guidelines sound good, but they are recommendations, not rules.  As the controversy with the University of Michigan showed, schools do not feel obligated to follow them.  That is one of the reasons that the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force has requested that the Big Ten Conference establish its own penalties for violations of the NCAA recommendations.  Congress–and student athletes–need to hold the NCAA accountable to its own recommendations for the safety of players.

Let a Skilled Attorney Help

If you have suffered a concussion or head trauma playing sports, contact Jordan Levine at the Levine Law Firm to discuss your legal options.

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