Ronald W. Ramirez, Attorney at Law

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Who is liable for concussions sustained in school sports?

A huge topic of current discussion in the football world is the risk players face with concussions. While most data relates to professional athletes, there is also concern for the risk facing high school football players, who are not doing this for a living. While a report by PBS found that the link between football and concussions remains unclear, there is evidence to suggest a link between memory loss and concussions. In fact, high school football players are more likely to experience concussions than college players, and the number could even be higher because some injuries go unreported. In some, but not all, cases, the school itself could be liable.

Waiver forms

Before allowing teenagers to participate in any sports, schools require parents and students to sign waivers. These limit a school's liability for ordinary negligence. This means a family cannot sue because a teen suffered an injury after a tackle during a football game. This is an "ordinary" risk players agree to take on. Parents and teens should read these forms carefully to see just how much freedom a school gives itself. 

Risks not inherent to the sport

These waivers cannot be all-encompassing. For example, a school cannot protect itself from any and all injuries, particularly those not inherent to the sport. As an example, a student-athlete who wants to play football would expect to get hit at some point. However, an athlete would expect the helmet to do its job and protect his skull. If during a game a helmet cracks and it is found the school knew it had faulty equipment, then the school would be liable for any injuries. This also extends to poorly-maintained facilities, such as a football field littered with holes, or inadequately-trained employees who do not know how to properly coach students. 

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