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Nicoletti Walker Law Group Dec. 5, 2014

Over the past several years, the topic of concussions and the long-term effects on athletes has played a dominant role in the National Football League news cycle. The topic reached a fervor pitch when more than 4,500 former NFL players filed a class-action lawsuit against the NFL for its alleged fraudulent handling of concussions. This summer the former players and the NFL reached a preliminary settlement to resolve the lawsuit. A similar lawsuit is also being settled with the NCAA. With the NFL and NCAA concussion lawsuits possibly winding down, another issue involving concussion and athletes may be developing: high school student athletes and concussions.

Recently, in what is believed to be the first of its kind, a former high school football player in Illinois filed a lawsuit against the Illinois High School Association over concussion protocols and management. The lawsuit claims that the IHSA has not properly protected its student athletes because the IHSA guidelines fail to “mandate specific guidelines or rules on managing student-athlete concussions and head injuries” and “fail to mandate the removal of athletes who have appeared to suffer in practice.”

Fortunately, for Florida parents of youth athletes, the state has enacted laws to handle concussions and head injuries in youth athletes.

Florida Law and Young Student Athletes with Suspected Concussions or Head Injuries

In 2012, Florida passed a new law to protect Florida youth athletes who have a suspected concussion or head injury. The law, which became effective July 1, 2012, requires bylaws or policies to be adopted that require “each youth athlete who is suspected of sustaining a concussion or head injury in a practice or competition to be immediately removed from the activity.” The athlete may not return to practice or competition until medical clearance is obtained stating that the “youth athlete no longer exhibits signs, symptoms, or behaviors consistent with a concussion or other head injury.” Only certain approved healthcare providers may deliver the necessary medical clearance.

In addition, parents or guardians of an athlete who is participating in athletic competition must sign an informed consent document that explains the nature and risk of concussions and head injuries. This form must be returned before the athlete may participate in any practice, tryout, workout, or athletic competition. Furthermore, the Florida High School Athletic Association must adopt guidelines to educate athletic coaches, officials, administrators, and athletes and their parents about head injuries and concussions.

The goal of the new law is to reduce long-term problems associated with repeat concussions and to prevent further injury before an athlete’s brain has had the opportunity to fully recover.

In addition to the policies and procedures under the new law, the FHSAA has adopted Return to Play Criteria to help manage concussions. These criteria include:

  • No athlete should return to play or practice on the same day of a suspected concussion. “When in doubt, sit them out!”

  • An athlete suspected of a having concussion must be evaluated as soon as possible and practical by a healthcare provider.

  • An athlete must be medically cleared before resuming activity.

  • After returning to play, an athlete must follow specified protocol based on certain signs and symptoms.

Contact a St. Petersburg, Florida Concussion and Head Trauma Attorney

If your child has suffered a concussion or head trauma, for whatever reason, the St. Petersburg head trauma attorneys at Mike Walker Law can help you and your child. Contact our Clearwater brain injury lawyers today for a free initial consultation and to find out how to get full and fair compensation for head injuries.