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Concussions

★ The Concussion Crisis – 3.8 Million Sports-Related Concussions a Year

concussions-icon-2.jpg The CDC estimates as many as 3.8 million sports-related concussions occur each year.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as many as 3.8 million sports-related concussions occur each year. But despite the prevalence of concussions, the organizations tasked with protecting players have often prioritized avoiding accountability.

★ The Tip of the Iceberg – the NFL Concussion Case

The National Football League (NFL) concussion litigation filed in 2011 was one of the most high-profile court cases in sports history. Insurance companies warned that the league might face as much as $2.5 billion in damages. And no one knew better than the insurance companies that that estimate might be the tip of the iceberg.

★ Widespread Change in the Face of Potential Litigation

The NFL represents only a fraction of the concussions that occur every year in a wide variety of sports, at levels from Little League to the professional ranks, but the NFL concussion lawsuit brought unprecedented attention to the issue, and the trickle-down effect prompted widespread change. Insurance companies, realizing that inadequate treatment of concussions now represents a risk for which they will have to pay, began pushing schools and sports organizations to embrace cutting edge concussion treatment protocols. The NCAA, for instance,—with its own potential liability described as a gathering storm that might one day dwarf the NFL litigation—has toughened concussion measures considerably.

★ The New “When in Doubt, Sit Them Out” Laws

In 2006, 13-year-old Zackery Lystedt suffered a concussion during a junior high school football game. Lystedt sat out just three plays before returning to the game. Later in the second half, Lystedt collapsed and was airlifted to a hospital, where he underwent emergency surgery to remove portions of his skull to relieve pressure in his brain.  In 2009, Washington state passed the so-called Zackery Lystedt Law, becoming the first state in the nation to enact a comprehensive youth sports concussion safety law. The law, also known as “When in Doubt, Sit Them Out,” was drafted by Richard Adler, Lystedt’s attorney. Since then, every state except Wyoming has enacted some form of “When In Doubt, Sit Them Out” law.

★ The Civil Justice System Drives Radical Change

 They’re forced to care now because it’s politically correct to care. Lawsuits make you care.” – Former Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback, Terry Bradshaw

Almost every time a concussion case reaches a courthouse, the result is an improved concussion management policy and better treatment. The civil justice system, through a small number of lawsuits, has driven the most radical change in the health care approach to athletes and student-athletes in the history of sports.