Former Football Player Sues Bowling Green State University and Staff over Concussions

08/13/2013

SEATTLE – Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP (HBSS), a national law firm, has filed a lawsuit against Bowling Green State University (BGSU) on behalf of a former BGSU student-athlete, alleging that they failed to protect the player from multiple concussions and residual head trauma and improperly revoked his academic scholarship.

To contact an attorney regarding concussions at NCAA institutions, you can email NCAAConcussions@hbsslaw.com or call 206-623-7292.

According to court documents, Cody Silk allegedly received multiple concussions while playing football for BGSU. These concussions allegedly went unreported and untreated by BGSU football staff members until Cody began experiencing memory loss. The university and football team’s inability to follow BGSU’s own concussion policy as well as widely accepted concussion management practices has left Cody with post-concussion symptoms and a medical disqualification from sports, the complaint claims. The lawsuit also alleges Cody was wrongly revoked of his academic scholarship by the university and denied his appeal.

“Bowling Green and their football staff completely ignored the policies they themselves created to prevent these injuries from occurring in the first place,” said Steve Berman, attorney representing National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) football players. “Even worse, they failed to take the most common-sense actions to treat Cody’s injuries, despite a sworn duty to protect all athletes playing on BGSU teams.”

Filed in the Ohio Court of Claims, the complaint claims BGSU, Head Football Coach David Clawson, Head Athletic Trainer Douglas Boersma, Assistant Athletic Trainer Annette Davidson, and Equipment Manager Joe Sharp failed to follow NCAA and BGSU concussion policies. As a result, Cody Silk allegedly suffered multiple concussions causing lasting effects and emotional distress.

The complaint alleges that when Cody underwent an initial physical evaluation on April 16, 2010, no inquiry was made as to any prior concussions, and no baseline – identifying possible susceptibilities to concussions – was established or confirmed, as required under BGSU policy and generally accepted concussion management standards.

The lawsuit also alleges that Cody was given improper equipment, further putting him at risk of a concussion. It details that when he put on his helmet, he found it did not fit and asked the Equipment Manager for a new one, but was refused. He also allegedly was denied a replacement when his chin strap broke during practice, a violation of NCAA rules according to the lawsuit.

Following these breaches of policy, court documents allege Cody experienced his first concussion on Sept. 30, 2010 while at red shirt practice and doing board drills, a physical collision drill that often requires helmet-on-helmet action for long periods of time.

Cody reported being hit and subsequently becoming dizzy and confused, and was later seen by the Head Athletic Trainer Doug Boersma. According to the trainer’s log, Boersma logged the event as a concussion incident, prescribed no treatment and told Cody he would only be monitored.

According to the complaint, BGSU did not monitor Cody, it did not administer a SCAT2 test, the standard test used when a concussion is suspected, nor did it follow BGSU’s Concussion Management Policy.

On Oct. 3, 2010 after more board drills, Cody exhibited concussion symptoms and was removed from the field, the lawsuit claims. Assistant Athletic Trainer Annette Davidson told him not to return to practice, that there was no treatment and she would monitor him. Two days later, Cody participated in a full-contact practice. His participation, given his history, was in violation of consensus standards for treatment of concussion and the training staff again failed to perform a concussion or head trauma evaluation, according to attorneys.

The complaint claims from Oct. 6 until Oct. 19, 2010, Cody reported to every team practice and lift session, despite allegedly suffering severe head pain and repeatedly vomiting anything he drank. During this time, Cody addressed these symptoms to a trainer and also allegedly suffered another concussion.

On Oct. 19, 2010, Cody was diagnosed with yet another concussion during practice. The trainers’ log for that day noted he had been hit in the head but did not remember the play, and that he suffered no loss of consciousness. The log reported an on field evaluation, and later – for the first time - a SCAT2 test was given.

On Oct. 25, 2010, BGSU medical records indicate Head Team Physician Jeff Noftz gave Cody another SCAT2 assessment as a follow-up to his previous concussion. Two days later, following another SCAT2 assessment, Dr. Noftz upon re-evaluation medically disqualified Cody from playing football due to repeat occurrences of concussions.

On Nov. 3, 2010, the trainers’ log noted Cody had been permanently medically disqualified from contact sports at BGSU, which was accompanied by a letter written by Dr. Noftz medically disqualifying Cody from any further participation as a football player at BGSU.

Cody attempted to continue attending school, but was unable to sit through his classes due to post-concussion symptoms of short-term memory problems, headaches and nausea, according to the lawsuit. According to the complaint, due to miscommunications within BGSU, Cody was unable to register for Spring 2012 quarter classes. As a result, BGSU revoked his academic scholarship. Cody filed an appeal in response and was then denied during a hearing in May 2012.

The lawsuit claims that between his last concussion sustained at BGSU to this day, Cody has experienced and continues to experience concussion-related symptoms, including but not limited to depression, multiple migraine headaches per week, fatigue, irritability, anxiety and difficulty sleeping. He is now at greater risk of concussions and other brain injuries, which has created increased risk of long-term injury and illnesses, attorneys allege.

The lawsuit asks for compensation for medical services rendered and future services, loss of future earnings, emotional distress, and the value of the scholarship, among other additional losses.

The lawsuit is not the first HBSS concussion case. In a proposed class action in federal court, HBBS represents a proposed class of current or former NCAA football players who have medical or team records indicating they sustained a concussion(s) or suffered concussion-like symptoms while playing football at an NCAA school, and who have, since ending their NCAA careers, developed chronic headaches, dizziness, dementia, Alzheimer's disease or other physical and mental problems as a result of the concussion and have incurred medical expenses from such injuries.

You can learn more about this case by visiting /cases/ncaa-concussion-cases.

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About Hagens Berman
Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP is a consumer-rights class-action law firm with offices in ten cities. The firm has been named to the National Law Journal’s Plaintiffs’ Hot List eight times. More about the law firm and its successes can be found at www.hbsslaw.com. Follow the firm for updates and news at @ClassActionLaw.

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Ashley Klann
ashleyk@hbsslaw.com
206-268-9363


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Case Timeline

05/04/16: Settlement Reached

A $712,500 individual settlement has been reached in Silk v. Bowling Green State University.

05/27/15: Motion for Summary Judgment Denied

The Court of Claims denied BGSU’s motion for summary judgment on Silk’s negligence claims, reversing an earlier decision. Upon Hagens Berman’s motion for reconsideration, the judge found that genuine issues of material fact existed as to whether the university’s conduct in handling Silk’s concussions was wanton or reckless.

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