Hunter J. Shkolnik on 790-KABC with Dr. Drew and Mike Catherwood
"Traumatic Brain Injuries Suffered by Pop Warner Football League Players"
Dr. Drew invited Hunter Shkolnik back to the show (listen to "Tragedy of Biblical Proportions in Flint Water Crisis") to discuss the developing story involving lawsuits and Pop Warner Football. Dr. Drew was curious as the timing of the lawsuits, whether there had never been previous litigation. Hunter explained that parents have always been allowed to bring suits against Pop Warner and that there most likely have been claims for various injuries over the years, but not for CTE. CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) also known as the football brain injury has been making headlines in the NFL and NCAA recently.
Hunter details how CTE is not an acute injury, rather that it is a chronic injury. It is a repetitive head injury that occurs in football or any other contact sport where the head is impacted at high velocity.
Dr. Drew requested more information on how it can be determined when the injury occurred since it is possible that Pop Warner players went on to play on a high school football or another organized football league. Hunter responds that the question is a good one and that it is very possible that there could be additional claims made. However, in this instance, the Court discusses the two young men (the representative plaintiffs) and Pop Warner for whom they played for a considerable amount of time and suffered multiple head traumas. There are no other facts that they played for any other leagues, "this is Pop Warner."
The allegations state that both young men suffered from behavioral problems due to the CTE. The autopsies of both young men identified CTE in their brains. As Dr. Drew points out, "hard, pathological evidence."
This suit has been brought as a class, defined as all players in the Pop Warner league over a certain amount of time for the statute of limitations. This could mean hundreds of thousands of young players who may have suffered some sort of head trauma.
The Court "dissected the complaint" and said yes that these cases can move forward as a class. The Court removed some claims but agreed that the general negligence claims can proceed. Hunter does discuss the fact that Pop Warner is a not-for-profit organization, however, they do have liability insurance upwards of $2 Million per injured young player. In Hunter's opinion, with the brain damage and/or death or a young person, that amount may not be enough depending on the evidence. He goes on to say that he would not be surprised if juries awarded more.
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, an attorney can refer you to a doctor who can test for CTE, 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 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.
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 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.