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Ruling says athletes may sue for concussion-related injuries

If you are a high school or college athlete, or are a parent of one, a new opinion that just came from the Ninth Circuit may be of interest to you since it asks for more protection of athletes from devastating head injuries.

In this particular ruling, a federal appeals court said that the governing body for the USA Water Polo organization is able to be sued for not protecting an athlete who was allowed to continue to play after receiving a concussion.

New ruling could be a wake-up call

Currently, no organization or sports entity can be sued for injuries suffered during play of the sport. Examples of this would include a baseball that his thrown into a batter or a tackle in a football game. Since these actions are an inherent part of the game, repercussions are not allowed to be sought due to an injury.

However, in this case, a female water polo player who was hit directly in the face with the ball went to her coach soon afterwards. According to the ruling, the blow to her head from the ball resulted in a concussion. However, her coach sent her back out to play where she encountered additional shots to the head which exacerbated the original injury. The court said that USA Water Polo is responsible for the protection of athletes from receiving repeated head injuries. The organization argued that rules it implemented for their coaches fulfilled that responsibility, but the court rejected that claim.

Complications from the head injury

Two days following the injuries in the pool, the player began dealing with severe headaches and suffered fatigue. The health of the player became so bad that she was unable to attend school where she had previously been a 4.0 student and played multiple sports. Her diagnosis was said to be post-concussion syndrome and that she had suffered declining mental capacity.

What this may mean for future athletes

Since this ruling was not about the initial injury that was sustained, but for the resulting injuries that happened when the coach let her play, all sports may begin to look at head injuries more closely during play. This ruling may make coaches and training personnel more cognizant about the severity of a head injury before letting their players back into the action, and not just in water polo, but in all sports.

This decision could cause sports organizations to implement protocols before letting a player back into a game after suffering a head injury. If you are an athlete or you have a son or daughter who is an athlete, you may want to check with the organization regarding their policy for determining head injuries during game play.

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