Zylstra v. Boise State University – Student Wrestler Head Injury Case

Football players have become the unfortunate poster child for sports-related head injuries in recent years, with a flood of lawsuits filed by professional players on down to those in the Pop Warner-age leagues.gym.jpg

Certainly, football can be a dangerous sport, and reports one of the highest rates of head injuries for any athletic activity. But it’s not the only one. As the recent case of Zylstra v. Boise State University highlights, wrestling too can be hazardous to participants – especially when coaches fail to recognize possible head injury symptoms or take appropriate precautionary measures.

A 2010 study published in the Western Journal of Emergency Medicine researched numbers and characteristics of wrestling injuries among male athletes in the U.S. between 2000 and 2006. Culling figures from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, study authors found 173,600 emergency room visits involving wrestlers between the ages of 7 and 17. Of those, 91 percent involved wrestlers 12 to 17, with an injury rate in that group of nearly 30 injuries per 1,000 wrestlers. Those included sprains, fractures and bruises, but the vast majority of injuries (75 percent) occurred above the waist (including to to the head).

Rock Hill athlete injury lawyers know that while every athlete is bound to take a few hits now and then, they and their parents expect their coaches and schools will take every precaution to protect them from serious harm. That includes pulling them out of practices and competitions when it appears they may have suffered a head injury. Failure to immediately assess and treat a head injury could result in exacerbation of the condition, especially if the athlete sustains additional blows to the head.

In the event of debilitating or permanent injuries, that could be grounds for a lawsuit against the school, coaches, athletic directors, etc.

In Zylstra, plaintiff was a college-level wrestler at a public university who alleged school employees (his coaches) allowed him to continue wrestling even after he suffered a head injury during a tournament.

Plaintiff asserted he suffered a blow to the head resulting in a concussion during the first day of a two-day, out-of-state tournament. He claims he lost consciousness, though his coaches dispute this.

His coaches did call a timeout. An athletic trainer took 90 seconds to asses plaintiff for neurological issues, including double vision, ear ringing, eye mobility, sensitive to light, etc. Those tests came back negative, no concussion was immediately detected and plaintiff returned to the mat, and ultimately placed high enough overall to continue to the next round of competition weeks later.

However, after returning home, he began to experience constant headaches and other symptoms indicative of a concussion. He says these affected his daily life, though defendants dispute this.

He filed a lawsuit alleging negligence. However, trial court granted defense summary judgment on the issue of causation after previously granting the university’s motion to strike affidavits from two of plaintiff’s expert witnesses. Problematically for plaintiff, those expert witness testimonies were not previously disclosed despite written discovery requests and admonishment from the court pertaining to the need to produce this evidence. Because plaintiff untimely submitted the expert witness affidavits, they were struck.

Idaho Supreme Court affirmed, finding the testimony was not properly disclosed.

It’s unfortunate that the case was forestalled by a technical failure.The outcome highlights the great importance of securing a personal injury attorney who is well-versed in the procedure of such cases, and is meticulous in all aspects of representation to ensure such oversights don’t occur.

Contact the North Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Zylstra v. Boise State University, Oct. 29, 2014, Idaho Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:
Christensen v. Alaska Sales – Early Head Injury Treatment Critical, Oct. 22, 2014, Rock Hill Injury Lawyer Blog

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