A former high school football player in Utah has filed a lawsuit in state court, claiming the Cache County School District, its board of education and the Utah High School Activities Association were negligent in the hiring and training of the coaches who allowed him to continue practicing, even after he complained he was suffering symptoms of a concussion.
Konnor Finn, a former player at Ridgeline High School in Millville, Cache County, claimed in the lawsuit that the incident occurred during a practice on Oct. 11, 2017. A senior, Finn collided with another player, suffering a helmet-to-helmet hit. He reported to his coach that his head hurt, and that he thought he had symptoms of a concussion.
“Following the hit, Konnor reported to his position coach, defensive line coach Stuart ‘Senior’ Howell, that his head hurt and that he thought he had a concussion and that he had concussion symptoms from the hit,” according to the complaint. “Coach Stuart Howell told Konnor to ‘man up,’ to ‘quit being a pussy,’ and ‘get back out there’ and keep playing.”
Finn said he “felt that he could not go against his coach’s instructions.” Thus, he kept playing in games and practices for two weeks, taking more hits.
He continued playing even though another coach saw him in the training room after the initial hit and noticed that he didn’t look well, and asked if he was okay. When the plaintiff told him what happened, the coach allegedly replied that the defensive coach had been “wrong to make Konnor continue to play.”
“As a result of the hit and especially from further impacts following the hit, Konnor has experienced pain and/or seizures so severe as to render him unconscious and necessitate several emergency calls resulting in ambulance transport to hospitals and hospital stays,” the complaint reads. He ultimately was admitted to Primary Children’s Hospital on Oct. 31, 2017.
Attorneys for Finn claimed he has continued to experience symptoms including “periods of blackout and memory loss, personality changes, depression and hospitalization,” and “will require continued medical care, pain management, and will suffer loss of a normal life due to the concussion injuries he sustained that were worsened by his coach sending him back.”
He missed “several months of school,” and the symptoms have not abated, according to the complaint. He has allegedly “experienced pain, confusion, blackouts, other concussion symptoms and need for significant medical treatment and pain management since the concussion occurred on or about Oct. 11, 2017.”
The complaint further notes that all high school coaches in Utah have been trained to recognize concussion symptoms, and are required to follow concussion protocol, which includes a student-athlete being cleared by medical personnel before returning to practices or competitions.
Tim Smith, the public information officer for Cache County School District, told the media “there’s always several sides to a situation. I think that’s why it’s going to court.”
He added that the district has been proactive for several years, that it has a partnership with Intermountain Healthcare to provide care to student-athletes at practice and games. The district also tests helmets and requires coaches to complete concussion training, Smith said. “We’re definitely concerned about the safety of our students,” he said. “Our intent is to make sure our coaches have the training and certifications that will help them be more effective.”
The plaintiff is seeking at least $300,000, claiming he suffered serious injuries and has ongoing medical problems.