Brain Injury: NCAA concussion settlement has long term implicaitons

Brain injuries and sports are becoming increasingly connected in the media and in the courtroom. As more and more athletes come forward with medical issues stemming from past brain injuries, we will continue to see these cases arise to determine liability and, perhaps more significantly, we look to these cases to guide the future management of brain injuries by schools, sports clubs and other athletic organizations.

Most recently, the NCAA reached a settlement in a concussion lawsuit brought by former athletes in July. The settlement had little impact on the individual plaintiffs in the case as no damages were included for the former athletes and no injury class action was pursued (they will be able to file individual personal injury law suits if they choose). The big news about this settlement is the commitment by the NCAA to invest $75 million in medical monitoring and research to help determine the long term effects of brain injuries; both sport and non-sport related.

According to the settlement, the medical monitoring and testing will include current and former NCAA athletes which means that athletes that played in the past will be able to receive neurological testing to gauge the extent of any sustained injuries. This testing will hopefully provide greater insight into the long term effects of brain injuries and could potentially open the door for many more individual personal injury suits by former NCAA athletes. In addition, NCAA member schools will also be required to update policies and guidelines surrounding concussion management for athletes.

This settlement confirms that concussions are serious and costly injuries. Significant work remains to be done to ensure that sports at all levels can be enjoyed safely. We are hopeful that developing technologies and increased awareness and research will propel the organized sports community in the right direction.

Brian Kinsley is the Mass Tort/Products Liability Practice Group Leader at Crumley Roberts. He is a Massachusetts native but now calls Winston-Salem, North Carolina home. When not at work, he enjoys cooking and spending time outdoors with his family.

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