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Liability for Mishandling Concussions in Student Athletes –

Washington state led the nation in the creation of laws to help provide guidance to coaches and clear standards designed to insure safety for students who are suspected of incurring a concussion.   This law can be found at RCW 28A.600.190.  It reads as follows:

RCW 28a.600.190

Youth sports—Concussion and head injury guidelines—Injured athlete restrictions—Short title.

(1)(a) Concussions are one of the most commonly reported injuries in children and adolescents who participate in sports and recreational activities. The centers for disease control and prevention estimates that as many as three million nine hundred thousand sports-related and recreation-related concussions occur in the United States each year. A concussion is caused by a blow or motion to the head or body that causes the brain to move rapidly inside the skull. The risk of catastrophic injuries or death are significant when a concussion or head injury is not properly evaluated and managed.

(b) Concussions are a type of brain injury that can range from mild to severe and can disrupt the way the brain normally works. Concussions can occur in any organized or unorganized sport or recreational activity and can result from a fall or from players colliding with each other, the ground, or with obstacles. Concussions occur with or without loss of consciousness, but the vast majority occurs without loss of consciousness.

(c) Continuing to play with a concussion or symptoms of head injury leaves the young athlete especially vulnerable to greater injury and even death. The legislature recognizes that, despite having generally recognized return to play standards for concussion and head injury, some affected youth athletes are prematurely returned to play resulting in actual or potential physical injury or death to youth athletes in the state of Washington.

(2) Each school district’s board of directors shall work in concert with the Washington interscholastic activities association to develop the guidelines and other pertinent information and forms to inform and educate coaches, youth athletes, and their parents and/or guardians of the nature and risk of concussion and head injury including continuing to play after concussion or head injury. On a yearly basis, a concussion and head injury information sheet shall be signed and returned by the youth athlete and the athlete’s parent and/or guardian prior to the youth athlete’s initiating practice or competition.

(3) A youth athlete who is suspected of sustaining a concussion or head injury in a practice or game shall be removed from competition at that time.

(4) A youth athlete who has been removed from play may not return to play until the athlete is evaluated by a licensed health care provider trained in the evaluation and management of concussion and receives written clearance to return to play from that health care provider. The health care provider may be a volunteer. A volunteer who authorizes a youth athlete to return to play is not liable for civil damages resulting from any act or omission in the rendering of such care, other than acts or omissions constituting gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct.

(5) This section may be known and cited as the Zackery Lystedt law.

The key component of this law is that the youth athlete cannot be returned to competition until cleared by a licensed health care provider trained in the evaluation and management of concussion.

The obvious intent of this law was to keep children safe from the potentially catastrophic affects of continuing to receive injury by returning to the field of play.

The initial suspected concussion does not result in the imposition of liability on a coach, but the returning of a player to the field without adequate medical evaluation and clearance can result in legal liability for further injury.   If a school does not have an appropriate health care evaluator, then the student cannot return to the game.

If your child suffered further injury because these standards were not followed, then the school district would likely face liability for their violation of the statute.

If you are looking for a proven professional, then please give us a call.
Contact your local Wiener & Lambka office today.

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