A former cheerleader at Southeastern University in Florida has sued the school, her former coach, and an assistant athletic trainer for negligence, claiming she received inadequate care after suffering a concussion during practice, which led to another concussion.
Plaintiff Ali Roberts, who is represented by Tampa-based lawyer Joseph Alvarez, put forth six counts of negligence against Southeastern cheerleading coach Krissa Wallsteadt, assistant athletic trainer Lana Olson and the university.
Specifically, she claimed that Southeastern didn’t properly train Wallsteadt and Olson on concussion protocols set up by the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics when they failed to ensure proper treatment of a concussed student.
“The school is trying to suggest that she wasn’t injured despite objective findings saying otherwise,” Alvarez told The Lakeland Ledger. “It’s mind-blowing to me that the school is not doing anything. It’s a complete reckless disregard for the safety of their students.”
Roberts alleged in her complaint that she fell on her head during a Sept. 1, 2016, team practice while performing a stunt. After the fall, assistant coach Kim Henry rushed to her aid. However, Wallsteadt reportedly stated in a deposition that Roberts didn’t show any signs of a concussion. So Henry drove her home without her seeing an athletic trainer or doctor. Roberts was then cleared to return to the team by Olson. But, on Oct. 20, she fell again, “aggravating and compounding injury resulting in ongoing neuro-cognitive deficits,” according to the complaint.
Alvarez told the Ledger that his client and other cheerleaders expressed concerns about an unsafe atmosphere, even before Roberts suffered her injuries.
“In the email sent to Southeastern University President Kent Ingle in March 2016, Leone said the cheerleaders told Watson of Wallsteadt’s lack of concern for the team’s safety, stating that they were forced to do certain stunts and tumbles despite being injured,” according to the paper. “Leone also stated in the email that Wallsteadt also didn’t respect the team, calling them ‘ugly’ and ‘made them feel inadequate as far as appearance and worth.’
“In an email a few days later, Watson told Southeastern Executive Vice President Chris Owen that there were ‘blatant inaccuracies’ in Leone’s email and suggested that he and Owen meet with Leone to discuss the matter further.
“Alvarez also states that there were several other cases of student athletes not being treated for concussions and were ‘either forced or encouraged to return to play without ever being evaluated or referred to a physician.’ Alverez cites text messages from athletic trainers identifying cases where players weren’t properly screened or were allowed to continue to play with concussions.”