Editor’s Note: Martin J. Cirkiel of Round Rock-based Cirkiel & Associates, P.C. is representing a former high school football player in his suit against the Marble Fall Independent School District and the former football coach. The case appears to be right in the attorney’s wheelhouse, given that his law firm “provides both general legal services to the Central Texas community and specific legal representation to persons (and their families) with mental illness, cognitive impairments, and/or physical disability.” The following article, written by Bill Newton, about the law suit appeared in Concussion Litigation Reporter (http://concussionpolicyandthelaw.com//)
A former high school football player has sued the Marble Falls (Texas) Independent School District and his former football coach, alleging that the defendants’ negligence caused him to suffer multiple concussions, 30 to 40 by some estimates, that have left him permanently disabled at the age of 20.
The plaintiff, Blake Allen Ripple, “is unable to live independently, let alone go to college,” according to the complaint. “At one time he was one of the highest rated linemen in the Central Texas area and was receiving interest for scholarships from a number of Division I colleges.”
Ripple, a member of the National Honor Society Student and Academic All-District selection, suffered a concussion in October of 2009 after “a helmet-on-helmet collision” during a game.
“Immediately after the injury, plaintiff was unable to remember what happened, was unsteady on his feet, staggered, and complained of nausea, dizziness, and a severe headache,” the complaint states. “Plaintiff’s trainer briefly talked to plaintiff on the sidelines after the injury, but he failed to render plaintiff aide and did not continue to observe plaintiff.”
Neither the coach nor the trainer accompanied the parent and player to the hospital for further evaluation.
The complaint goes on to reveal that, “Plaintiff was seen and treated at the Mayo Clinic from May 18, 2010 until May 27, 2010. Doctors at the Mayo Clinic believe that Plaintiff may have an autonomic dysfunction brought on by the head injuries Plaintiff had experienced. Plaintiff was told that he could eventually play football again, but that it would take some time before he could get back out on the field.”
Prior to the team’s summer practices, Ripple’s parents notified Woerner of their son’s overall medical condition. According to the complaint, “Coach Woerner told plaintiff that if plaintiff could not perform at 110 percent, that he did not want plaintiff on the team.”
The complaint goes on to state that “on one occasion at practice, Coach Woerner forced plaintiff to run so hard that that evening plaintiff started to bleed from his ears and nose. Plaintiff’s parents took plaintiff to the emergency room, where they were told that plaintiff was severely dehydrated. Plaintiff’s parents again informed Coach Woerner of plaintiff’s medical limitations and that plaintiff’s doctors did not believe that Plaintiff would be ready to play again until midseason.
“Around this time, plaintiff’s parents had been complaining and corresponding with the Administration Office at plaintiff’s school. The Administration Office suggested that plaintiff’s parents just ‘relax’ to avoid any retaliation against plaintiff.
“Despite Coach Woerner’s receiving frequent reminders of plaintiff’s medical condition and diminished physical abilities, Coach Woerner continued to punish plaintiff with excessive physical exercises and drills in order to force him to play for the team. In fact, he put plaintiff on the field at the teams’ second scrimmage, where he again experienced injuries,” the complaint further states.
The situation continued to deteriorate as the plaintiff was ultimately placed on homebound educational services.
When recruitment letters from D-I schools began arriving, his coach allegedly withheld them from him. Not only that, his coach admitted releasing Ripple’s medical information to scouts, absent permission from either him or his parents. During this time, the complaint suggests that more demands were being made of Ripple, both in practice and games, since his team was deemed playoff-worthy.
The sad thing about this case? Blake Allen Ripple is more than likely not the only high school athlete that this has happened to. We just don’t know about the others…yet.