Who’s at Fault for Sports Injuries?

by RyanD on April 26, 2013

In early 2013, the NFL passed a new rule prohibiting runners and defenders from lowering their heads “and striking a forcible blow with their helmets when outside the tackle box.” The rule was met with much criticism from fans and players alike; however, the regulation comes in light of mounting evidence of traumatic brain injuries in athletes long after their NFL career has ended.

When Do Rules Change?

Rules for playing contact sports like football are constantly changing as a preventative measure against unnecessary injuries. Joe Thiesmann is the victim of one of the most famous football injuries in history. In 1985, during a game against the New York Giants, Thiesmann was sacked by an opposing player, and suffered a break in his leg between the knee and ankle. His injury is described as nothing less than gruesome, and unfortunately ended his career. However, Theismann’s injury (in addition to a host of injuries sustained by other players) has also changed the way professional football is played. While there was not an immediate response following this injury, there was more weight added to rule changes in order to make players safer (and seeing horrific injuries like Thiesmann’s prompted more support from fans).

Brain Injuries Spark Concerns for Safety

More recently, and in light of new technology and research, brain injury become a major concern for football players. In 2012, thirty-five professional football players who had donated their brains to science upon their deaths were believed to have suffered from CTE, “a degenerative brain disease brought on by repeated hits to the head.” It is difficult to argue that there is not a connection between football and the brain disease CTE with those types of statistics. Many wonder whether current helmets are enough to keep players safe from head injury. Still others place blame on coaches, team physicians, and other team personnel for putting at-risk players back in the game.

In 2005, Preston Plevretes, a football player at LaSalle suffered from a head trauma during a practice game. He was subsequently checked by LaSalle staff doctors, who cleared him to play in future games. The young man was then injured in the following game on a tackle, and suffered brain damage that left him with speech impediments and memory loss. As a result, he subsequently required 24-hour care. Plevretes sued the school for damages, claiming that the physicians who checked his injuries the first time were negligent in determining there was no concussion. The school settled out of court, though had the issue gone to trial, lawmakers would have to determine who was at fault for the injuries.

Player Lawsuits

There are an extensive number of lawsuits pertaining to injuries received during game play in various sports. Judges must determine who is at fault by examining the laws and whether the requirement for a judgment for the plaintiff is suitable.

The responsibility for injuries suffered during any type of game is a shared one. Parents who sign their children up for sports should do so with the understanding that there is an inherent health risk involved. Fans of the game are responsible when they expect newer and better moves and perfect wins every time. This is especially true in children’s sports for overzealous parents.

Team members are expected to act responsibly on the playing field, but, that is not always the case. Poor sportsmanship can easily lead to lawsuits due to injuries sustained by another player. Coaches, team owners, and doctors are most often the parties that are sued. Legal action comes from carelessness (such as the case of the LaSalle player), improper helmets, and overuse of one player to further the teams win status. Injuries and lawsuits would begin to decline if every responsible party would adhere to a proper code of conduct during game play and practices. More importantly, with an average career length of just 3.5 years, perhaps it’s time NFL personnel, officials, fans, coaching staff, and players, focused on maintaining the health of participants, rather than winning games.




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