The parents of a college football player who died after a second concussion have filed a wrongful-death lawsuit charging that coaches let their son back on the field during four consecutive practice sessions despite the fact that he was bleeding from his forehead. The parents of deceased Frostburg State University football player Derek Sheely also claim he was never checked for a concussion or to see if his helmet was properly fitted. Sheely was 22.
"One of Derek's teammates described the demeanor of the practices leading up to Derek's fatal injury as completely 'out of control,"' the lawsuit said. "What is more, the word 'concussion' is not stated a single time in Frostburg's team policies. Thus, the coaches treated all injuries — brain injuries and ankle sprains — the same: You were expected to play through them."
The school, the NCAA, head coach Thomas Rogish and helmet-maker Schutt Sports have all been named as defendants in the lawsuit. The lawsuit alleges that the full-speed drills during the Division III school's preseason camp were "a gladiatorial thrill for the coaches."
During the "Oklahoma Drill," players were subjected to nearly nonstop, head-to-head collisions, which could have caused dozens of concussive or sub-concussive blows, the lawsuit said.
Dr. Robert Cantu, a Boston neurologist and leading expert on sports concussions, said that injuries caused by a concussion that occur before a previous one has fully healed can prove fatal within minutes, ABC 7 reported.
Sheely mentioned to an assistant coach he "didn't feel right" and had a headache on Aug. 22, 2011. He walked off the field, collapsed and died six days later.
The NCAA agreed earlier this month to try to negotiate a class-action settlement with regard to the thousands of concussions already suffered by student athletes. According to the Sheely’s lawsuit, the NCAA was originally formed to protect student athletes.
"Today, those words ring hollow," the suit said. "Derek's life was sacrificed to a sport."
A Colorado jury ruled on Saturday that helmet manufacturer Riddell was negligent in failing to warn people wearing its helmets about concussion dangers, and awarded $11.5 million to plaintiff Rhett Ridolfi and his family.
In 2008, Ridolfi suffered a concussion during football practice at Trinidad High School. He was not taken to the hospital, and as a result he is now is paralyzed on his left side and has severe brain damage. Several coaches and school administrators were also named in the suit.
Riddell will appeal the ruling. The company was found to be at fault for 27 percent of Ridolfi's injuries, meaning that it will pay $3.1 million of the damages, according to USA Today.
"While disappointed in the jury's decision not to fully exonerate Riddell, we are pleased the jury determined that Riddell's helmet was not defective in any way," the company said in a statement.
Frank Azar, Ridolfi's lawyer, plans on asking the judge to find Riddell responsible for paying all $11.5 million of the damages. “I think this jury has said they're in very serious trouble," said Azar, He is also representing between 10 and 20 former NFL players who are suing Riddell.
Riddell has said that it believes it designs and manufactures the most protective football headgear for athletes.