Court Filing Urges Helmet Requirements to Protect Women Lacrosse Players

Sep 15, 2017

A former National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) women’s lacrosse player has filed an Objection to a proposed settlement of NCAA concussion-focused class-action litigation, claiming that the settlement does not adequately protect college-level Women Lacrosse Players from catastrophic head injuries.
Samantha Greiber, an Annapolis, Maryland native, alleges that she suffers from permanent brain injuries resulting from two concussions that she sustained while playing NCAA women’s lacrosse at Hofstra University. Greiber wrote in an Affidavit submitted to the U.S. Federal court in Chicago that, as an active player, she desired to wear a type of helmet that would have prevented, or at the very least minimized, her injuries. But, the NCAA rendered such helmets illegal — and only did so for women’s lacrosse programs.
Greiber’s lawyers at the firms Rifkin Weiner Livingston LLC (RWL) and Smouse & Mason, LLC, based in Baltimore, wrote in her Objection that the proposed settlement is not fair, reasonable or adequate because it would require Women Lacrosse Players to release any claim they have to require the NCAA to mandate protective helmets for Women Lacrosse Players or otherwise to educate NCAA institutions, coaches and players about the benefits of protective helmets. A hearing to determine the fairness of the proposed settlement has been set by United States District Judge John Z. Lee to take place on November 28, 2017, in Chicago.
According to the Objection filed in federal court in Chicago on August 29, 2017, Women Lacrosse Players represent a particularly unique and vulnerable group of NCAA student-athletes for whom a particular subclass of plaintiffs should have been created. The Objection notes that even after the Court indicated an earlier concern that Class Representatives as a group must adequately represent the “continuum” of the risk of suffering a concussion across different NCAA-sanctioned sports, no Class Representative was established to represent the unique interests of Women Lacrosse Players.
“Data from NCAA studies and its Injury Surveillance System, as well as from other academic sources, all well known to the NCAA, establish that the incidence of concussion for Women Lacrosse Players is consistently among the highest of any NCAA sport,” the Objection argues. The Objection further notes that the “The NCAA knows — and has available to it multiple studies and academic articles, some of which it sponsored, demonstrating — that the best available means to prevent student-athlete lacrosse players from suffering concussions is to require them to wear protective helmets, as it does for its male lacrosse players.”
Women Lacrosse Players remain unprotected, according to the Objection. Further, the proposed settlement not only fails to address the issue, but, if approved, it would bar Women Lacrosse Players from taking further legal action to require helmets. 
The lawyers for Greiber note in the Objection: “The NCAA has undertaken a duty and contractually obligated itself to protect the health and safety of its student-athletes.” They further highlight that the NCAA’s Executive Director declared in July 2014 testimony to Congress that the organization has “a clear, moral obligation to make sure that we do everything we can to support and protect student-athletes.” The Greiber Objection notes that it is “reasonable for student-athletes such as Ms. Greiber to believe that the NCAA meant what it represented to the United States Senate, and it would also be reasonable for student athletes to rely upon the NCAA to follow through upon such promises. Yet, the NCAA has strikingly failed to protect Women Lacrosse Players, and has discriminated against them” by failing to require protective helmets for women, or to provide even the most basic education about their use and benefits, according to the Objection.


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