Student athletes who suffered concussions while playing school sports have a better chance at getting justice now that a Lawrence County judge has allowed a class action lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) to move forward.
Three students have filed as the representative plaintiffs in the case. All of the students suffered head injuries while playing school sports, and they allege that omissions by the PIAA worsened the effect of the initial trauma and increased the risk of secondary injury. As a result, the students faced ongoing medical issues including trouble focusing, eyesight deterioration, frequent headaches and loss of impulse control.
The lawsuit claims that despite knowing the serious and lasting damage that concussions may cause to students' long-term health, the PIAA failed in its duty to protect the safety of students, such as by failing to appropriately educate athletic departments, provide necessary medical personnel and monitoring, create protocols for diagnosis and treatment and create a safe playing environment, among other issues. The PIAA objected to the lawsuit, claiming that its member schools - each of which pay a substantial fee in dues - are responsible for the safety of students, in addition to coaches, trainers and parents. According to the PIAA, it had no responsibility for students' welfare.
A judge dismissed most of PIAA's objections, allowing the case to move forward as a class action. The PIAA has recently requested the court amend its prior order, again arguing that despite exercising control over all aspects of interscholastic sports, it has no legal duty to student athletes.
Many thousands of current and former student athletes may have been affected by the PIAA's failure to protect students from head injuries. According to the Brain Injury Association of American and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 22,000 students in Pennsylvania experience concussions each year. While the problem is widespread, experts estimate that concussions are severely under-reported because many coaches and trainers encourage youth athletes to "play through the pain" after suffering from an injury.
Current and former high school and junior high school athletes who suffered a head injury while playing sports should contact attorney Aaron Rihn at Robert Peirce & Associates for a free consultation at 866-273-1941 or online.