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Recovering Damages for Sports-Related Injuries to Children

Each year, some 36 million children across the United States participate in youth sports.[1] Sports are a great way for children to have fun and exercise. Although organized sports are generally very safe, parents and children should both be aware of injury risks associated with sports. Despite the relative safety of organized sports, approximately 3.5 million children are injured each year from sports. A child’s injuries will often consist of bruising, sprains, and muscle strains. Although certain injuries are common to certain sports, they are typically no one’s fault. In fact, even more serious injuries such as broken bones may also occur in the natural course of the sport.

While most injuries occur during the natural course of the sport, other injuries can be and, in fact, are caused as a result of another party’s negligence. When injuries are caused by another’s negligence, the injured party may be able entitled to compensation for any losses. Some common damages include:

  • Medical Bills
  • Lost Wages (if applicable) or Opportunities
  • Loss of Enjoyment
  • Pain and Suffering
  • Punitive Damages

Not all sports-related injuries entitle the injured party to recovery. In many cases, individuals cannot recover as they have assumed the risk of being injured in the natural, physical course of the game. Children can generally recover for those injuries caused by another’s negligence.

Some of the potential sports-related injuries that may be caused by negligence include:

Concussions and Traumatic Brain Injury

Concussions have become of greater concern as of late thanks to scientific developments and the attention concussed athletes are receiving in the media. Recently the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) reached a settlement agreement wherein it instated a policy that banning youth soccer players under the age of 10 from heading the soccer ball during games and practices.[2] The USSF reached this agreement after evaluating studies showing the impact concussions have on brain development and both cognitive and motor skills.

Concussions and traumatic brain injury (TBI) can cause serious and lasting complications, especially with a child’s still developing brain. Any time the brain hits the inside of the skull, it runs the risk or injury that can affect cognitive and motor skills. If brain injuries such as concussions are not treated, any negative effects could continue to develop or become lasting. Despite protocols in place to keep athletes safe, coaches and staff do sometimes negligently ignore the signs of brain injury and instead allow the child to return to play.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has classified the symptoms of concussion into four separate categories:

  • Thinking and memory – Difficulty thinking clearly, sluggishness, problems with concentration and impaired memory retention.
  • Physical – Headache or blurred vision, nausea, vomiting and dizziness, light and sound sensitivity, lethargy.
  • Emotional – Irritability, sadness, increased emotion and anxiety.
  • Sleep – Sleeping more or less than usual and difficulty falling asleep.

Receiving medical attention, even for a mild concussion, is paramount to preventing complications from a second head injury. The severity of a concussion can only be determined through tests. Complications that may arise from a concussion are epilepsy, headaches and dizziness and vertigo. Second impact syndrome is by far the most serious complication that can result in rapid and often fatal swelling of the brain.

It is the responsibility of the sanctioning group and participating coaches to make youth sports as safe as possible. Providing proper protective gear is one way and discouraging dangerous play is another. A football coach, for example, must discourage helmet spearing and head butting, not encourage it. A basketball player should be taught not to throw elbows and a baseball pitcher should never “dust off” a batter by throwing close to the head.

Failing to Provide Proper Medical Care can Lead to Lasting Injuries

A failure to provide medical care is no excuse for injury, even if a child athlete completes and submits a liability waiver prior to participating in a sport. While there is a greater focus on head and brain-related injuries surrounding today’s sports, child athletes, especially those whose bodies are still developing, can suffer serious and lasting injuries whenever proper medical care and attention is not administered. In such cases, an athlete sustains an injury during the course of play and informs the coach or medical staff of his or her injuries. Still, the athlete does not receive adequate medical care and the injury worsens as a result. Even if the child athlete does receive medical attention, it is possible that the medical staff fails to properly assess the injury and the injury worries as a result of the staff negligently allowing the athlete to return to play.

Coaches May Cause Injury by Failing to Provide Proper Equipment

Equipment is designed to help protect athletes from injury. Still, injuries may be caused by a failure of coaches to provide the necessary and proper equipment to his or her players. Further, coaches may provide defective equipment to his or her athletes and thereby risk the athletes’ safety. This practice further increases the risk of injury, especially in contact sports. As a result of the coach’s failure, children may suffer serious injuries such as TBI, spinal injuries, or injured extremities.

Waivers and Consent Forms

The parents of these children signed consent forms and waivers, acknowledging that their child’s participation may result in injuries. They purchased proper clothing and accessories for their child’s sport: helmets, shin guards, specialized footwear, and shatterproof eyeglasses. The parents provide water, hydrating sports drinks, and healthy snacks for their child when they head off to practices and games. They remind them to put on sunscreen and do their warm-up and cool-down exercises. They understand the nuances of their child’s sport, and know the extent (and limitations) of their child’s athletic abilities.

Most of these children will weather the season without a scratch, while others will suffer minor bumps, bruises, and sprains that “go with the territory” and aren’t unexpected injuries for their particular sport. Others may suffer more serious injuries, such as broken bones, repetitive motion injuries, and even traumatic brain injuries (TBI). According to the Centers for Disease Control, some 2.6 million young patients are treated in emergency rooms for sports injuries each year. Sometimes even serious injuries are within the realm of normal risks of participation in certain sports, but what if they occur due to negligence on the part of the coaches or sports organizations?

School and Community Sponsored Sporting Events

This is one of the reasons that it is important to sign your child up for activities which are sponsored by schools and communities. They are likely to have hired coaches who are properly trained in their respective sports, and also have first-aid training and CPR certification. School- and city-sponsored recreational leagues often have certified trainers on hand to assure that proper procedures are followed, both in training and in case of an on-field injury.

Sometimes, however, injuries occur even with all of these safety precautions in place, and they may be beyond the scope of the expected risks for a sport and outside of the normal injuries covered by the parental consent and waiver. Negligence on the part of the coach or training staff can lead to injuries that have lasting, serious effects on the developing body of a young athlete. An inattentive coach might not provide adequate supervision or a “spotter” for an athlete who is trying a new routine or maneuver. A coach who is obsessed with winning might allow unnecessary roughness on the field or even physically assault his own players; or he might fail to remove an injured star player from the game. He might push players beyond their threshold for endurance or pain, or encourage them to continue practicing in deteriorating weather conditions which create a dangerous surface for play.

Contact a Clearwater, Florida Personal Injury Attorney Now To Schedule a Free Consultation

Children should be able to play sports without suffering preventable injuries that are not a natural result of playing sports. A child injured while playing sports should be able to recover damages for those injuries caused by another’s negligence. Here at the Dolman Law Group in Clearwater, Florida, we will work tirelessly to analyze your child’s case and identify the theories of liability under which your child can successfully recover damages. Our team will fight for your child’s rights and bring forth those claims to ensure your child receives nothing less than the compensation he or she deserves. Call us today at 727-451-6900 and schedule a free consultation with one of our team’s skilled attorneys.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33756
727-451-6900

https://www.dolmanlaw.com/legal-services/brain-injury-attorneys/

References:

[1] http://www.statisticbrain.com/youth-sports-statistics/
[2] http://www.ussoccer.com/about/federation-services/sports-medicine/player-safety-campaign/2015-player-safety-campaign-faqs