USA Water Polo
Hagens Berman has filed a class-action suit against USA Water Polo, the governing body for the sport of water polo in the United States, alleging that the entity has neglected to enact concussion and head injury safety measures.
The complaint, filed Feb. 3, 2014 in the U.S. District for the Central District of California states that USA Water Polo has the power to enact and enforce policies and rules that would prevent or minimize injuries. This case arises from the failure of USA Water Polo to take steps to recognize, manage and appropriately treat head injuries and concussions. USA Water Polo’s failure to implement even a scant amount of concussion management care for its participants represents an extreme departure from the ordinary standard of care.
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According to the filed complaint, water polo is a rough and physical game, tracing its origins to an aquatic form of rugby, and is extremely demanding on both the body and mind. The direct contact of the players and high velocity with which the ball travels often carries sufficient force to fracture or cause severe facial or head injuries.
Younger players are typically not provided professional medical supervision, either during practices or at matches. About half of all high schools have access to an athletic trainer, but very few have an athletic trainer present on the sidelines or on call to help identify concussions during play, according to the complaint.
As the national governing body for water polo in the United States, USA Water Polo enforces the playing rules adopted by the Federation Internationale de Natation (“FINA”) which oversees international competition in five aquatic sports: swimming, diving, synchronized swimming, water polo, and open water swimming. FINA enacts the rules which are then adopted and enforced by USA Water Polo. USA Water Polo has the power to enact, enforce, or modify these rules that would properly protect participants from concussions that are preventable, as well as properly protect participants who suffer concussions from returning to play until they have progressed through a widely accepted stepwise, graded exertional return-to-play protocol and are symptom free for at least 24 hours.
Despite USA Water Polo’s pronouncements to the contrary, it has not taken appropriate actions in regards to protecting the safety of players at any level and has engaged in a pattern of gross negligence and inaction with respect to concussions and concussion-related maladies suffered by players.
Hagens Berman's complaint seeks to represent a proposed class of all current or former water polo players who, from 2013 to the present, competed for a team governed by USA Water Polo and seeks injunctive relief requiring (1) the enactment and enforcement of proper concussion-management practices and return-to-play guidelines; and (2) proper substitution rules that allow for medical evaluation. The suit also seeks equitable relief in the form of medical monitoring for the purpose of diagnosis of long-term injury and disease resulting from concussions as a result of USA Water Polo’s negligence and concealment of information.
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