Concussion Lawsuit Puts Focus on Tracking Concussed Athletes After They Leave the Playing Field and Engage in Other School Activities; Experts Weigh In

Mar 17, 2017

A high school football player in New York has sued Staten Island and its Education Department, claiming they failed to follow proper city and state protocols when the student participated in a gym class, before he had been cleared from a concussion he suffered on the football field, and suffered a subsequent concussion.
Anthony Antis was a member of the New Dorp High School junior varsity football team when on Sept. 26, 2015 he suffered a concussion during a game. Protocol dictated that Antis could not resume athletic activities until he had been declared symptom-free for at least 24 hours and received written authorization from a physician.
Such an authorization must be maintained as part of the student’s permanent health record, according to the complaint. The plaintiff also alleges that the city’s Education Department requires that the prohibition applies to all physical activities within the school, including before- and after-school programs, physical education, recess and leagues.
But on March 16, 2016, during a PE class, Antis was convinced by his classmates to participate in a field hockey game in the school gymnasium. Antis suffered a second concussion, when he tripped and fell. This has caused him to suffer from “classic concussion symptoms,” such as dizziness, inability to concentrate and nausea, according to the complaint.
The boy’s mother, Veronica Antis, has alleged negligence, claiming that the defendants should have advised appropriate school personnel, “especially his gym teachers,” of his concussion history, according to the complaint.
“This was an organized game of hockey during a PE class. In my view, the system of tracking kids with concussions was not in place,” John Bosco, the plaintiff’s attorney, told the media. “The school is there to protect kids against their own misjudgment, and they didn’t do it.”
Dr. Andrew M. Blecher, an expert on concussions, told Concussion Litigation Reporter that “a single, simple, properly managed concussion shouldn’t lead to symptoms seven months later.
“However, it’s possible that this kid had a concussion and kept playing and suffered a second overlapping concussion. Or it’s possible he has other comorbidities like ADD, migraines, learning disability, anxiety, depression, etc. Any or all of these, in combination, could have led to long-term issues for this kid. More discovery is needed before we can say whether or not this is a plausible claim.”
But the science is become clearer, said plaintiff’s attorney Eugene Egdorf of Shrader & Associates.
“What we have learned over the years about concussions is that there is far more to the analysis than if an athlete suffered a concussion, or how many concussions he or she sustained,” Egdorf said. “Science tells us that CTE can develop in athletes that were never diagnosed with a concussion. We have learned that repetitive subconcussive hits are damaging to the brain. We have learned that adolescents are particularly susceptible, and thus the call by many to eliminate youth football.
“Thus, a case like this one really is not that unusual or unexpected. At issue here is more than one violent hit and perhaps a failed helmet, but the dangers caused by not following the generally accepted protocol, and thus denying the boy’s brain the opportunity to fully and properly heal. Such failures increase the harm of the concussion exponentially. As is so often the case improper concussion management places the athlete in more danger – and thus the need for strict rules, not guidelines, and real punishment for non-compliance.”
What a School District Should Do
Karen A. Haase, of Lincoln (Neb.)-based KSB School Law, added that “states have adopted widely-varying standards and protocols for concussion response,” making a broad-brush assessment difficult.
“Some states have these requirements in a statute, while others have them placed within the administrative regulations of their state departments of education,” she said. “In addition to the state requirements, most boards of education have also adopted concussion protocols that are specific to the school district.
“First, every coach, teacher and administrator needs to know what both the state and school district protocols are for concussion. There are several cases throughout the country where a student was concussed in a non-sports environment and the teacher in charge had not been trained on concussion response because he or she was not a coach.
“Second, school districts must follow their adopted concussion protocol with absolute fidelity. If a plaintiff’s attorney can prove that school district staff failed to follow the protocol in some respect — even if the failure was minor — it is much harder for the school district’s attorney to defend the claim.”


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