Danger from Concussions for Students, Districts

The Department of Health estimated that Minnesota high school athletes suffered nearly 3,000 concussions in the 2013-2014 school year.  In addition to the potential health effects, there are legal risks for districts that do not take action to prepare for and respond to these events.

A recent Florida case highlights these risks.  A student jumped to catch a football while playing catch with other players before practice, and hit his head on a piece of equipment.  He was evaluated by a trainer and drove himself home.  His parents later took him to the hospital, where it was discovered that he had a concussion and other injuries.  The student and his family sued the district, claiming that it lacked proper protocols and failed to provide appropriate emergency care or notify his parents.   The school district ultimately settled the student’s claim.   In addition to a large monetary amount, the district will have to develop and implement a concussion protocol.

It is impossible to prevent every injury.  But what can schools do to avoid potentially serious student injuries and the legal issues that might result?

Minnesota law requires schools to provide information about concussions to students and parents and requires coaches and other athletics staff to receive training on dealing with concussions.  Coaches and officials are also legally required to remove an athlete from a game or other activity whenever that student displays signs of a concussion.  The Minnesota State High School League has adopted a concussion protocol that precludes a student from returning to play on the same day that concussion symptoms are displayed and directs schools to ignore a parent’s permission to resume athletic activity, even if the parent is an appropriately licensed medical provider.

Following these requirements and keeping records of your district’s compliance may be critical to protect both students and your district from the effects of concussions.