Lakewood Pop Warner Sued, Alleged Improper Coaching Leads to Paraplegia

Written by PC News on . Posted in Board Members, Coaches, Litigation, Medical, Training

Could bad coaching lead to a lawsuit against your league? If the result is player injury, it can and already has. Yet another suit has been filed against a local sports league and its directors contending that a coach’s negligent instruction caused injury to the player. (Full story here).

The Lakewood (CA) Pop Warner association, its officers and directors, and the players coach were named in a suit filed recently in California Superior Court. The suit alleges that the player’s coaches repeatedly saw him unsafely tackle opponents head-first in both practices and games but did not attempt to correct his technique. The suit also alleges this was taught and that the players were given “repeated and incorrect instruction that Hill and his teammates tackle opposing players by leading with the head, rather than placing the head on the outside of the opposing player, as directed in national Pop Warner rules and coaching materials.”

According the the player’s attorneys “[f]ilm footage of the game shows Hill consistently making tackles with his head down, according to the complaint. At the moment of injury, Hill’s body went limp after making contact with another player while attempting a tackle with his head down. Doctors at Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center later determined that Hill suffered a catastrophic spinal cord injury, resulting in quadriplegia.”

This suit highlights how coaching education is a necessary part of any risk management plan. When we are delivering services directly to youth participants, it is vital that the person directing and instructing the players be properly trained and aware of the latest safety recommendations. The suit against the directors claims that no protocol existed to make sure the tackling rules and safety protocol were being enforced. Willful blindness will not protect an organization from suit.

One of the frequent objections we here in our presentations is a complete misconception that developing rules will render the organization more liable if they are not later enforced. This suit highlights the point we make: you are far more likely to be sued, and in a far worse position with a jury, if you ignore known risks and choose not to make policies. Enforcement and reporting is a part of every risk management plan, and we help you there too.

See how we can help your organization be proactive and develop player safety policies that are implementable and enforceable. Contact us at 512-487-RISK.

Head Injury Guidelines: Where is Youth Soccer Heading?

Written by PC News on . Posted in Medical, News, Players

Concussion awareness has greatly increased in all sports over the past few years. In soccer, where the act of heading the ball is an integral part of the game, the discussion has been going on a bit longer. Yet, youth soccer could be said to be behind the other sports in terms of developing and implementing guidelines for recognizing and diagnosing concussions. Years ago medical studies on retired professionals indicated a heightened level of brain damage that was immediately (and not very scientifically) attributed to heading the ball. Moreover, many people rushed to conclude that heading itself posed a risk to youth players based on a study of people who played and trained professionally over the course of decades. The science wasn’t and still isn’t there to support such an inference. However, it does highlight the need for awareness.

Most head injuries in soccer occur from collisions between players or between players and objects such as the goal post. While we certainly should make sure coaches are teaching heading properly, our focus in a risk management area would look at the more likely causes of concussion, and establish a framework for managing concussion injuries. What guidelines do you have in place for your club?

A few points to remember:

1. Concussions often occur with no loss of consciousness
2. Symptoms include a change in level of alertness, confusion, vomiting and extreme sleepiness
3. Players showing symptoms of a concussion should not be returned to the game and should be seen in an ER immediately
4. A player is not ready to resume competition just because symptoms have subsided. Doctors will often recommend several weeks of no physical activity after the symptoms end.
5. Risk of permanent brain injury increases with successive concussions.

A concussion awareness plan should provide for (a) medical evaluation; (b) return to activity guidelines; and (c) tracking of prior head injuries. At all times, be guided by the medical recommendations, not the subjective feelings of the player or parent. Concussion awareness should be part of your volunteer training program.

For more information or help in developing a concussion awareness plan, contact us!

Philly.com article on concussion awareness.