Student Athlete Concussion Litigation

The family of Derek Sheely filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the NCAA, members of the Frostburg State (Maryland) coaching staff and helmet manufacturer Schutt. Sheely died in August 2011 after sustaining a head injury during football practice. His family alleges that Frostburg employees did not treat their son’s head injury and the running back coach insisted he keep playing. They believe he died of second impact syndrome from multiple concussions.

The defense neurology expert Julian Bailes testified there is no evidence Sheely experienced second impact syndrome. The former NFL and college football team physician believes Sheely died from an acute subdural hematoma. The defense also argued that because the NCAA is a sports organization, it has no legal duty to protect college athletes.

The NCAA has concussion guidelines and requires schools to submit their policies but at this time, does not penalize schools if they are found to have violated their policies. NCAA policy states:

All student-athletes who are experiencing signs, symptoms or behaviors consistent with a sport-related concussion, at rest or with exertion, must be removed from practice or competition and referred to an athletic trainer or team physician with experience in concussion management.  A student-athlete’s health care provider experienced in the diagnosis and management of concussion should conduct and document serial clinical evaluation inclusive of symptom inventory and evaluation of cognition and balance.

Neurology expert witnesses provide experienced analysis and testimony in wrongful death cases such as this. They are able to give unbiased opinions in litigation following tragic events such as the death of college athlete Derek Sheely. Concussion diagnosis of the student athlete can be problematic. Neurology experts provide the necessary sound medical information to the court regarding neurological injuries to young athletes.

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