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Coaching Certification to Deal with Concussion Injuries

I’m Katelyn Holub, an attorney focusing on personal injury law in northwest Indiana.

Welcome to Personal Injury Primer, where we break down the law into simple terms, provide legal tips, and discuss personal injury law topics.

Today’s question comes from a caller who said his daughter was on the school basketball squad at an Indiana high school. During a basketball game, she fell and suffered a severe concussion. He found out that the coaching staff had no concussion training and did nothing to deal with the injury. In fact, the coach made his daughter continue to play with a severe headache and dizziness. The doctors are now telling him the damage is much worse than it would have been if the child had been removed from play and prompt medical care had been given. He wanted to know his legal rights.

First, let’s set aside issues about giving notice to sue a school, a governmental entity. We have explained in other podcasts that specific notices must be timely served on the government after an incident to sue. Second, in other episodes, we have also discussed how governmental entities in many situations are statutorily immune from liability. So, let’s set that issue aside.

At the heart of the caller’s question is a lack of coaching training to deal with concussion injuries or willful disregard of the needs of concussion victims.

Since at least 2017, Indiana has had a law setting forth certified coaching education requirements for concussion awareness. [IC 20-34-7-7]

The statute applies, with limited exceptions, to a head or assistant coach who coaches any interscholastic or intramural sport.

The statute states that before coaching a student-athlete in any sport, a head coach and every assistant coach … must complete a certified coaching education course that:

–  contains player safety content on concussion awareness;

–  requires a coach to complete a test demonstrating comprehension of the content of the course; and

–  awards a certificate of completion to a coach who successfully completes the course.

The certification course must be approved by a licensed physician who has expertise in concussions and brain injuries.

Suppose a coach complies with the certification program and provides coaching services in good faith. In that case, the coach may not be held personally liable for damages in a civil action due to a concussion or head injury suffered by a student-athlete participating in athletic activity. However, a coach may be held personally responsible if the coach’s conduct amounts to willful misconduct or gross negligence.

It will be essential to learn whether the coach completed a certification course on concussion awareness in the caller’s case. And if so, why were the signs of concussion exhibited by the child ignored? If it was to win a game at the expense of the child’s health, there might be a tough time of reckoning for the coaching staff.

I hope you found this information helpful. If you are a victim of someone’s carelessness, substandard medical care, a product defect, work injury, or another personal injury, please call (219) 736-9700 with your questions. You can also learn more about us by visiting our website at DavidHolubLaw.com – while there, make sure you request a copy of our book “Fighting for Truth.”