Archive for the ‘Football’ Category

Benching of Youth Participants and Resulting Lawsuits

Parents who pay want their child to play

It’s not yet what you’d call a trend, but there’s certainly an uptick in the number of parents filing lawsuits to get their child off the bench and onto the playing field.

Parents put out big bucks in registrations fees, equipment and travel costs associated with high school and youth club and travel teams, to say nothing of the time they invest attending practices and traveling to games. Many parents sacrifice their time and money for their children hoping to get the attention of college coaches, earn scholarships, and improve chances of college admissions – or even advance a professional athletic career. So, it’s understandable that some are dissatisfied when their child rides the bench more than he or she plays. In other words, they expect a payoff for their investment.

There is also an increase in lawsuits by parents of children who have been cut from teams, injured, disciplined by coaches or penalized by officials. But is hiring an attorney the answer? Many are questioning not only the attitude of entitlement, but how the children, who generally play for the fun and camaraderie, are affected by such lawsuits. What are the children learning when parents step in so heavily handed to smooth the way? Will they learn they’re entitled to play on a team simply because they attend practice? And are parents setting these athletes up to be bullied by other team members?

The increasingly competitive nature of youth sports has helped shift many parents’ focus from fun, exercise and sportsmanship to an investment in their children’s academic and professional futures. Youth sports officials are watching the case of a 16-year-old volleyball player. The girl earned spot on a volleyball league but ended up on the bench, so her parents filed suit against the volleyball association, alleging it won’t let the girl play or to switch teams, per the contract she signed.

General Liability policies, which typically only respond to certain lawsuits alleging bodily injury or property damage, don’t cover these types of lawsuits that allege loss of college scholarship or loss of pro career. Such lawsuits generally require a Professional Liability endorsement on a General Liability policy or a stand alone Professional Liability policy.

Source: Tracey Schelmetic,, 21 Apr. 2015.

2015 American Youth Football & Cheer Insurance Program Released

The gold standard that is the envy of the competition

The American Youth Football and American Youth Cheer endorsed insurance provider, Sadler Sports Insurance, has released the new 2015 insurance program for teams /associations /conferences.  Detailed 2015 coverage and rate information  is now available on our website Our online enrollment became operational on May 16, 2015.

The 2015 offering is, once again, the gold standard in youth football and cheer insurance with an unbeatable combination of low rates, broad custom coverages, and best-in-industry automation that allows instant online enrollment and issuance of proof of coverage documents and certificates for field owners. But that’s not all: the program also provides best-in-industry risk management resources to prevent injuries before they become claims and groundbreaking studies on safety in youth football and cheer.

Apply, pay, and print proof of coverage documents and certificates in as little as 10 minutes

Our advanced automation is so simple and fast that you can complete the entire insurance purchase transaction and print all your documents in as little as 10 minutes. Many competitors require the completion of forms and days of waiting just to get a quote. Then, once the quote is bound, it can take several days to get the proof of coverage document sand certificates for field owners. Or, they could charge $100 extra for next day rush delivery.

After the purchase, we provide our clients access to our website so that they can self-issue certificates for new field owners 24/7. It’s so easy and our clients love this benefit.

Beware of competing programs that seem too good to be true

We often hear stories about a competitor offering cut-rate policies with a per team rate that is too low to be believable. Whenever this happens, something ends up being defective with the offering, which illustrates that if something is too good to be true, it usually is. We’ve seen cases where the quoted price did not include the cost of both the Accident and General Liability policies, where the organization never reported the transaction to the insurance carrier and no insurance was in force, and where a big corporation was going to foot the bill for the insurance (dream on), etc. After a little bit of digging, these schemes fall apart.

What is being done to combat the risk of concussion/brain injury and related litigation?

Sadler Sports Insurance has released a new Football/Cheer Concussion Awareness Risk Management Program (short form) that is strongly recommended for all teams/associations/conferences. This free program can be downloaded from our risk management page. This program consolidates accepted risk management practices into a three-page document for easy board adoption and implementation. We recommend coaches complete the AYF coaching education program. Certification is required of head football and cheer coaches participating in AYF national championships. We also encourage coaches, volunteers and players view the Seattle Seahawks’ tackle video, which demonstrates their tackling methods. It is important for all teams/association/conferences to thicken their shields by adopting and fully implementing a comprehensive concussion/brain injury risk management program. The future of our sports depends on this action and it’s the right thing to do to protect the kids.

What is being done to combat sex abuse/molestation post Sandusky?

We introduced a simple one-page Child Abuse/Molestation Protection Program – Administrators (short form) that, if adopted by your board and fully implemented, will greatly lessen the chances of an incident occurring within your program. The free program can be downloaded from from our risk management page.

Best-in-industry risk management resources (free)

We have an incredible line up of free risk management resources including articles, legal forms, risk management program templates for your easy adoption and customization, and training videos for administrators and staff. This includes the newly created document entitled Sample AYF/AYC Advanced Plan, which is a comprehensive risk management program customized for AYF/AYC organizations. Please visit our risk management page to access these materials.

Be a part of groundbreaking injury studies

If you purchase your insurance through the endorsed insurance program, all Accident claims automatically become part of the database where our custom software analyzes the information to produce meaningful injury reports. This has led to groundbreaking studies on  the comparison of injuries in age only vs age/weight categories and the incidence of concussions within AYF/AYC.

Innovative sports equipment and safety regulations

Weeding through the hype

There’s an abundance of sports equipment manufacturers coming up with innovative products intended to make contact sports safer. The ongoing concern about concussions, particularly among youth athletes, is a focus and big money maker for many of these manufacturers.

As Eric Berman, an advertising and antitrust attorney, points out in a recent article, manufacturers compete for a share in the market by advertising their products’ safety features. However, the claims made by advertisers and marketers and the science they use to bolster those claims will be scrutinized by both regulators and consumers. Berman’s article discusses the false advertising claims recently being denied by a federal judge in the Riddell Revolution helmet case.

Riddell may have prevailed, but manufacturers will be held to the FTC’s new stringent test data retention requirements. It’s important that advertiser claims are supported by science and that all the documented data, test protocols and records for the clinical studies are maintained.

All that is well and good, but the best way to lower the risk of concussions and other sports-related injuries is through risk management and proper technique training based on credible scientific research. We encourage you to read some of our many articles advocating for risk management policies and concussion education. A perfect example is the Seattle Seahawks’ tackling video, which was released in 2014 as a way to educate coaches and players about their team’s methods of tackling.

Don’t count on technology to provide the safety you can achieve using common sense and proven methods.

Attorneys Soliciting Concussed High School Football Players

A profile of the perfect client for attorneys

We recently came across an article published by a law firm seeking to educate (and solicit) readers about high school football players filing lawsuits against their school after suffering a concussion.

Here are the points that can trigger a successful lawsuit according to the law firm:

  • Athlete was not removed from the field as soon as concussion symptoms were observed
  • Athlete was not evaluated by a medical professional and returned to play, and/or
  • Athlete received medical treatment but returned to play without written clearance by the evaluating medical professional, or
  • Athlete’s coach did not receive concussion management training prior to the injury.

Avoiding lawsuits through risk management

All 50 states and the District of Columbia have passed concussion laws that pertain to high school athletes. The goal of the laws is to prevent concussions from happening and to reduce the risk of long-term consequences. These laws require school districts to develop policies concerning athletes suffering concussions or traumatic brain injuries during school-related activities.

In addition, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) has published recommended guidelines for concussion and brain injury risk management.

The various state laws and the NFHS recommended guidelines cover all the areas of concern listed in the profile of the perfect client for attorneys. It’s simple: follow the rules that are the standard of care and avoid most of the real liability potential. Ignore the rules or halfheartedly enforce them and you will dilute the strength of your legal defense.

We have more concussion-related information, including the signs and symptoms of concussion.

Source: “Brain Injury Lawsuits and High School Athletes,”, 24 Feb. 2015.

Football Leagues Ignoring Brain Injury Standards…

do so at their own peril

If your youth tackle football league and its directors, officers, and coaches are sued as a result of a brain injury to a current or past participant, under what standard of care will you be judged?

The law of negligence is based on four elements:

  1. Duty is owed to act as reasonable and prudent youth tackle football and cheer administrators and coaches by following the national standard of care regarding to concussion/brain injury protection.
  2. Duty is breached by not following the national standard of care.
  3. The breach is the cause of the injury.
  4. Damages result.

 As regards the standard of care, the courts will look to expert witnesses who will testify that the standards of care are set by the recommendations of the governing body (USA Football), National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), and state concussion insurance

We have designed a concussion/brain injury risk management program for our American Youth Football and Cheer (AYF) clients that addresses most of the standards that have been set by these organizations and state legislation. See our Football/Cheer Concussion Awareness Risk Management Program (short form) in our risk management library.

If you want to see how standards work in an actual brain injury litigation case, see the synopsis and summary of the pending Chernach vs. Pop Warner lawsuit by a law firm specializing in brain injury litigation. Ask yourself how you think your local association would fare in its legal defense if a similar claim were to be filed? In my opinion, most of the allegations in this lawsuit seem to be without merit, though legal defense costs will be high. Very few of the concussion standards were in place at the time of the alleged injury and the plaintiff was exposed to high school football and 12 years of wrestling in addition to youth tackle football.

However, concussion/brain injury standards are certainly in place now. Ignore the standards at your own peril.

High School Football Benefits vs. Risks

Contrarian voices ignored by media, advocacy groups, and most researchers

Concerns about concussions and other head injuries have a lot of parents debating about whether or not to allow their children to play high school football. But I have been stating for quite some time that I don’t think youth or high school football is doomed and believe that there is credible evidence that recent initiatives on coach/player/parent education, state laws, and brain injury risk management plans are already having a positive impact.

Unfortunately, my opinion isn’t shared by everyone, despite the evidence.

However, I recently came across an opinion piece that I would describe as the contrary voice of sanity amid a sea of sensationalism spurred by the media, advocacy groups, and most researchers. In short, these groups very much need tackle football to be considered dangerous because that is good for business, at least in the short term. There is no denying that advocacy groups and researchers are just doing their job and have provided a valuable service with the heightened awareness of this very real risk. But too often they draw conclusions which are just not backed by good science, at least for youth and high school football. Furthermore, the media is more interested in publishing the reports that will shock their audience as opposed to those with a contrarian view.

The author of the article, who is a father and physician, speaks to that in detail, but also eloquently points out the beneficial aspects of playing football.

Most of the media hype is centered around the NFL concussion lawsuits, the basis of which have nothing to do with youth athletes. The recent Boston University study about increased risks to NFL players who played youth football before age 12 is scientifically flawed. It doesn’t take into account other high risk behaviors of NFL players and there was no control group. Even the researchers admit the limitations of their study. Science and hard facts are what should drive a parent’s decision making on whether a child should or shouldn’t play football. The potential for injury, which is minimal at the youth and high school level, is only one element to consider.

Apparently, the emotional tide is beginning to turn, as the number of high school football participants is slowly rising. As a risk management expert, I encourage you to read Ed Riley’s “High school football’s benefits outweigh the risks” and consider the points he raises. And if, like me, you see the sense he makes, please share it with others.

We have more more posts on this topic on our blog.

Increase in High School Football Participation

Concussion education and laws helping to boost the numbers

In previous posts we’ve discussed the impact media attention on concussions may have on the future of youth football.  Some people have gloomily predicted an end to the sport. However, after a five-year nationwide decline in high school football participation, an increase in 2013 has been reported by the National Federation of State High School Associations.

Educating parents and coaches on concussion diagnosis and return to play and new concussion laws being enacted in every state and the District of Columbia have no doubt played a significant role in the increase.  During the 2013-14 school year, there were 6,607 more boys and 184 more girls participating in football over the previous year.

Parents are apparently measuring benefits of participating with the chances of an injury and deciding that the precautions now in place have lowered the risk of injury to an acceptable level, according to Davis Whitfield, the N.C. High School Athletic Association commissioner.  The NFSHS enacted several rule changes, such as where players line up on kickoffs and anyone losing a helmet during play is rConcussions in youth sportsequired to leave and not return until it has been properly secured. And many state associations have limited the amount of contact in practices.

Ongoing concerns

Despite the growing awareness and positive changes in protocols, not all the news is good. Four high school football players died during the 2013 season from head injuries. And several high profile former NFL players have expressed concerns about having their own children play football.

In North Carolina, the deaths of two high school players in 2008 were the impetus for passing the Gfeller-Waller Concussion Awareness Act. That state law says that all public middle and high schools must provide concussion education to coaches, parents and players, develop emergency action plans, and to have post-concussion protocol in place to be followed as to when players with suspected injuries can resume play or practice.

However, violations of the law are occurring, but there are no penalties attached to it. An state audit of the found that high schools in 13 of the state’s 115 districts weren’t in compliance, most for not posting emergency action plans. There’s no reason to think other states aren’t experiencing similar violation issues.

The NCHSAA is proposing fines and other penalties for non-compliance. The commissioner cited violating return-to-play protocol could carry a fine and failure to get a parental concussion education form signed would mean the player is ineligible to play.

Looking ahead

Only 13 states have concussion laws covering all youth sports, while most cover just high school and middle school athletics.  Advocates of stronger protocols say that expanding concussion laws to include any youth teams and leagues using public fields should be the standard for all states.

Please see our other articles on concussion risks, research and prevention.

Source: Tim Stevens, “Participation in high school football increases despite concussion risk,” 03 Jan. 2015

The Positive Impact of Concussion Awareness

Reporting and treatment in youth football on the rise

Injury data taken from the county’s largest youth football organization, American Youth Football (AYF) paints a bright picture. The data indicates that recent increased awareness and education of administrators, coaches, parents, and players is resulting in greater concussion identification and more aggressive medical treatment and follow up.

According to claims data from the AYF-endorsed Accident insurance plan, the rise in incidents of concussions to total injuries reported began in 2011. This coincides with the media’s first reports on high profile concussion lawsuits and alarming injury studies. The trend continued in 2012 and 2013.

Percentage of concussions to total injuries:

2005 – 2010       6.7%  average
2011                11.5%
2012                16.4%
2013                16.4%

What the numbers mean

This is concrete evidence that educational awareness and concussion recognition, treatment, removal, and return to play protocols Concussion diagnosisare having a positive impact on protecting youth, according to John Sadler, president of Sadler Sports Insurance. In the past, many concussions were missed or ignored. When concussions were identified, parents tended to self-treat with a wait-and-see approach. Now, many more concussions and potential concussions are being identified with more emergency room visits, diagnostic tests, and follow ups with concussion experts who are critical in helping parents and athletes making return-to-play decisions.

Education is critical

We believe and statistics prove that the more you know about concussions, the better prepared you are to deal with them. We encourage you to read our other articles on concussions, which include information on American Youth Football’s concussion risk management initiatives.

Research may lead to fewer youth football injuries

Varying rules and policies among leagues is a factor

Two South Carolina youth football leagues were the subjects of a two-year study looking at athlete injuries across all age groups. The data collected during the research  conducted by the Athletic Training Department at the University of South Carolina could result in better safety policies within the leagues and, most importantly, fewer player injuries.

The results of the study are not yet published, but they look promising. The biggest predictor of injury appears to be league culture, not size or age, according to Jim Mensch, director of the program. Apparently every league has different policies, procedures, and safety standards and there seems to be a correlation there that indicates which players are more at risk for injury.

Part of the data was collected using 60 accelerometers. The high-tech devices were attached to players’ heads to measure collision force during practices and games. The information can then be downloaded for analysis.  USC is one of only a few institutions currently using this technology for research in youth football.

The early findings

Out of the 4000 players included in the study, 10 percent reported injuries that included everything  ranging from serious bruising to broken bones. Researchers also found that approximately 3 percent of the athletes experienced concussion-like symptoms.  That’s lower than the 7-9 percent reported in studies conducted on high school and college players.

Dehydration also appeared to be a significant factor in the number of injuries suffered. The study showed that players consumed adequate fluids during games and practices, but most were arriving to practice and games moderately dehydrated. It seems that players made good use of the fluids provided by the team and the water bottles they bring from home, but weren’t drinking sufficient fluids prior to arrival. Even with the water provided during play time, the sweat excreted left them chronically dehydrated.

The study’s other positive results

The parents and league organizers are delighted about the medical attention the players get from the study.  Many of the injuries get diagnosed and treated at practices and games by the athletic trainers conducting the study, rather than leaving parents and coaches to decide if a trip to the emergency room or a doctor’s office is necessary.

The study is being extended for one more year and will include more leagues in the area.


Source: Joey Holleman, “Study takes 2-year look at youth football injuries,” 22 Aug. 2014


Study: Physical Causes of Concussions in Youth Football

And potential for lowering the numbers

A new study by Sadler Sports Insurance and American Youth Football (AYF), the world’s largest youth football organization, reveals the actual physical cause of concussions in youth tackle football ages 5 to 15. The study included 2,231 Accident insurance claims filed over the years 2004 to 2013. During this time period, 5.58 percent of total claims reported were due to concussions. Below are trends for the physical cause of concussion claims:

Contact with the ground

Tackled by player

Collision with opponent/other

Tackling player

Blocked by player

Collision with teammate

Blocking payer












Another way to consolidate the claim information is as follows:

Collision with player

Contact with ground







One of the primary risk management controls to reduce concussions in youth tackle football is the emphasis on the safe tackling techniques demonstrated in the Seattle Seahawks’ tackle training video. These methods would likely impact those concussion claims resulting from tackling players and tackled by player for a total potential 37% reduction of all concussion claims. In addition, they would also reduce sub-concussive impacts and reinforce the more effective tackling technique.

Our earlier studies on concussions in AYF indicated that the vast majority of concussions occur during games – only 28 percent of concussion claims occur during practice. For more information on claims occurring in youth tackle football, see AYF Releases Data on Injuries in Youth Tackle Football.