Personal Injury Attorneys

CTE Claims Against Youth Football Organizations

Football is a very violent sport that carries a very high risk of injury, but scientists are just beginning to understand the kind of violence that is most dangerous and the nature of the hidden risks. Over time, the helmet-to-helmet contact that takes place on almost every block, along with the violent jarring motion that occurs on most tackles, eventually causes chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a serious and permanent brain injury. Moreover, largely to bolster enrollment, many football clubs, such as Pop Warner, either downplay the known CTE risk or mislead parents as to the organization’s commitment to player safety. The tenacious brain injury attorneys at Napoli Shkolnik PLLC stand up against corporate greed, whether it is an unfeeling petrochemical company or a youth sports conglomerate. We fight even harder when the victims are children or other people who are unable to speak up for themselves. While corporate lawyers use legal loopholes to try and deny economic justice, we do whatever it takes to obtain fair compensation for our clients.  

What is CTE?

Sudden, intense trauma to the head causes most brain injuries, but chronic traumatic encephalopathy is different. Repetitive trauma over time causes CTE, so it is most commonly associated with military veterans and sports athletes. Probably in response to these events, a protein spreads through the brain and kills cells. Dead brain cells do not regenerate, so victims never truly recover from a blow to the head. It takes a lot more than a few concussions to cause CTE. The best evidence suggests that hundreds or even thousands of incidents are responsible. Moreover, sub-concussive impacts may be a larger factor than concussions. The nature of the disease makes it very difficult to spot, and a brain autopsy is the only way to formally diagnose the disease. Doctors first identified CTE among boxers in 1928 as “punch drunk syndrome,” and first associated with football players in 2005. Initial symptoms, such as impulsive action, depression, and aggression, usually appear in the 20s and 30s. Later, in their 40s and 50s, many victims experience confusion, memory loss, impaired judgement, and dementia-like symptoms. These are only general guidelines, as sometimes CTE is very severe in younger victims, and other times, older victims only experience mild symptoms. CTE and all other brain injuries are incurable, but doctors can often alleviate the symptoms with a combination of surgery and very aggressive physical therapy.  

Your Claim for Damages

Research suggests that trauma before age 12 is much more significant with regard to CTE than trauma after age 12. Therefore, based on current scientific evidence, youth football organizations are most likely responsible for subsequently-diagnosed CTE injuries. Some prominent groups include:
  • Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Football,
  • Pop Warner,
  • USA Football, and
  • American Youth Football.
If you played football for one of these organizations and are currently experiencing symptoms anything like the ones described above, a team of brain injury lawyers can refer you to a doctor who can test for CTE and other brain damage issues, usually at no upfront cost. Legally, these groups have a duty of care to make the activity reasonably safe for all participants. Sometimes, fulfilling this duty involves rules changes or other alterations that would be unpopular with some fans and/or some corporate executives. Nevertheless, the responsibility is clear, and a failure in this area usually means that compensation is in order. This compensation in brain injury cases normally includes money for both economic damages, such as medical bills, and noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages are available in some cases. Important time deadlines apply in negligence cases, especially in situations that involve injuries which are discovered many years after the traumatic events.  

Possible Defenses

Laying out a compelling preliminary case for negligence is often not enough, so tenacious attorneys are ready for some common corporate defenses in brain injury and other personal injury cases. In sports injury cases, the assumption of the risk defense is often an issue. This doctrine excuses liability if the victim voluntarily assumes a known risk. Football players voluntarily assume risks such as knee and ankle injuries, because they sign waivers to that effect and the risk is apparent. However, unlike sudden trauma head injury, repetitive head injury and brain damage is not an apparent risk. Therefore, the defense is arguably inapplicable. At best, it only amounts to slight contributory negligence. Despite the known risk of CTE, many youth football groups refuse to adequately protect their players. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in New York, contact Napoli Shkolnik PLLC.
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