U.S. Third Circuit - The FindLaw 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Court Rejects Football Player's Concussion Case

For Sheldon Mann, it started when he got hit twice in one day playing high school football. The coach told him to get back into the game after the first collision without evaluating him for a concussion injury.

After the second hit, Mann started suffering the effects of a traumatic brain injury, including headaches, hallucinations, short-term memory loss, and seizures. Mann would never play competitive football again.

His parents sued on his behalf, alleging the coach did not protect their child. But now that's over because an appeals court said the law didn't protect him either.

State-Created Danger

In Mann v. Palmerton Area School District, the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals said the coach had no legal duty to protect the youth under the circumstances at the time.

"[T]he right in question -- to be free from deliberate exposure to a traumatic brain injury after exhibiting signs of a concussion in the context of a violent contact sport -- was not clearly established in 2011," Judge Thomas Vanaskie wrote in affirming a district court decision.

The district court judge granted a summary judgment motion against the plaintiffs, who said the coach violated the 17-year-old's constitutional rights. They claimed it was the student's right to be free from deliberate indifference that increased the danger of serious injury.

But the trial judge said the coach had a qualified immunity because the right was not clearly established by law. That has changed.

Concusion Injuries

Since then, state and federal lawmakers have considered measures to protect youth from concussion injuries. More states now require schools to create and implement formal plans to manage concussions.

Among other requirements, they should notify parents and obtain written medical releases before students are allowed to return to play after suffering a concussion.

Related Resources: