Concussion Lawsuits Reach Youth Football

A lawsuit has been filed in California federal court against Pop Warner and USA Football by two mothers whose sons played football as children and found to have suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) after their deaths. The complaint accuses Pop Warner of failing to monitor games, practices, rules, equipment, and medical care to minimize long-term risks associated with brain injuries, failing to accurately diagnose brain injuries, and failing to approve the best equipment available. Meanwhile, it alleges that USA Football promotes safety programs of questionable value and issues flawed research to back up claims that its programs are effective in reducing the risk of concussions.

There are several legal defenses Pop Warner may raise. First of all, they could argue there is no provable causation between playing in Pop Warner and the alleged brain problems the plaintiffs’ sons suffered from, pointing to any non-football-related head trauma the boys may have suffered before they passed away. They also can maintain that the parents contractually assumed the risk of injury on behalf of their children via terms in Pop Warner parental consent forms stating that they understand the potential dangers associated in participating in football. Additionally, Pop Warner can point out that it offers seven divisions to players based on age and weight as proof that is has acted reasonably and proactively in the care of the children who play in its leagues. Finally, they can assert that the potential economic consequences of losing the litigation could lead to a drastic change in its economic model, with costs being passed on to parents and guardians in the form of higher fees.

While the lawsuit will be portrayed as a class action, it has not yet been certified by a judge and so as of now is simply a claim brought by two individuals. Pop Warner is certain to fight the plaintiffs on certification, as the suit becomes incredibly more threatening as a class action, whether it results in settlement or defeat.

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