Student-Athlete Sues NCAA-Affiliated Baldwin Wallace University for Permitting Repeated Concussions

SEATTLE – A former student-athlete has sued his former university claiming the school failed to recognize, diagnose, test or treat him for head trauma and symptoms of a concussion, and prematurely allowed him to return to full-contact football without proper evaluations while he was still reporting symptoms, causing him to have ongoing post-concussion syndrome, according to court documents filed by his attorneys, Hagens Berman.

Alex Isaac was encouraged by Baldwin Wallace University-employed athletic advisors to continue playing despite his clearly reported concussion symptoms and continues to live with the effects of his concussion, according to attorneys.

The complaint, filed June 19, 2014, in the court of common pleas in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, states that Isaac on several occasions during his time as a student-athlete showed clear symptoms of a concussion. During this time, multiple members of the Baldwin Wallace medical staff permitted Isaac to continue playing, failing to adhere to NCAA and Baldwin Wallace-established protocols to prevent and treat the symptoms and effects of concussions, according to the complaint.

“As an NCAA-affiliated institution, Baldwin Wallace has an obligation to protect the health and safety of its student-athletes,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman. “We believe that the actions shown by the university’s staff in no way upheld this obligation, and have caused Alex to face the effects of concussions for months after the incidents occurred.”

The complaint cites the NCAA Constitution’s language set in place to uphold the health of participating student-athletes: “It is the responsibility of each member institution to protect the health of and provide a safe environment for each of its participating student-athletes.”

According to the complaint, Baldwin Wallace also had its own mandatory concussion management protocol in place during this period of time, adopted to protect student-athletes from serious and permanent injuries caused by premature return to physical contact following a concussion.

“Not only did Baldwin Wallace medical staff ignore the signs and symptoms of Isaac’s clear concussion, but they did so repeatedly and in the face of NCAA and college-wide protocols set in place to keep student-athletes safe,” Berman said. “Isaac clearly identified his symptoms to medical staff, and Hagens Berman finds it deeply disturbing that he was encouraged to continue participating in games and practices.”

The complaint states that Isaac’s first concussion took place in on August 17, 2011, during practice. Isaac sustained a blow to the head, after which he displayed clear signs of a concussion including vomiting, confusion and headache. Medical staff performed an evaluation, and Isaac was sent to a local hospital’s emergency department. The next day, Isaac received a call from a Baldwin Wallace football coach, requesting that Isaac return to campus and attend practice, according to the complaint.

After a series of incomplete examinations from Baldwin Wallace medial staff, during which Isaac continued to report dizziness, vomiting, sensitivity to light and other symptoms, he continued to remain unevaluated by a team physician.

On Aug. 27, 2011, while still showing concussion symptoms, Baldwin Wallace training staff initiated a gradual return to play protocol, despite the university’s Concussion Protocol that players remain symptom-free for 24 hours before cardiovascular exercise. Isaac continued to report symptoms.

Isaac was cleared to continue playing on Sept. 2, 2011, without proper evaluation, violating medical consensus and subjecting Isaac to further brain injury, according to the complaint. Isaac continued to sustain additional traumatic injury to his concussed brain during full contact football, and continued to suffer headaches, as well as memory and concentration problems.

Baldwin Wallace medical staff finally took Isaac to a team physician on Sept. 13, 2011. Isaac continued to suffer from post-concussion syndrome in the months following his premature return to full-contact football, including confusion, nausea and other symptoms. Despite prior academic excellence, he withdrew from the university in September 2011 due to his inability to function as a student as a result of his injury and suffers from symptoms to this day.

More information is available at the Hagens Berman NCAA Concussions case page.

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Ashley Klann

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