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Ever since the 1950's, football players from high school to the NFL have participated in the "Oklahoma Drill." Developed by legendary coach Bud Wilkinson at the University of Oklahoma, the drill pits two players battling for yardage in a confined space. Often starting with both players having a 3-yard head of steam, the Oklahoma Drill is defined by a "helmet-popping collision, testing the resolve of those involved with their teammates and coaches watching on."
Given recent research on concussions in football and especially head-to-head contact, many teams have phased out the drill to protect players. But a former player from Pennsylvania claims the drill caused him a traumatic head injury, post traumatic stress, and "will adversely affect his life."
Where the Head Injuries Come Rushing Down the Field
Shane Skillpa was participating in the Oklahoma Drill for the West Mifflin High School Titans in 2009 when he was hit so hard, his helmet shattered. Instead of being evaluated or treated for a head injury, Skillpa returned to the drill. "He was not treated properly," Ton Plastino, Skillpa's attorney, told KDKA News. "After the initial injury, which was quite severe, he showed certain symptoms that needed to be treated. In spite of that, no protocol was pursued."
Those symptoms have only worsened over the past eight years. Skillpa has been diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, and may be at a greater risk of suffering from Parkinson's disease. "He suffers from unusual light sensitivity, anxiety, spatial relation problems, memory loss, all kinds of sleep issues," said Richard Sandow, another one of Skillpa's attorneys. "All of those make day-to-day living more difficult." His lawsuit claims he will need a lifetime of medical care with little or no hope for improvement.
Sooner or Later, Lawsuits
Skillpa's isn't the only lawsuit involving the Oklahoma Drill, and not even the only one filed in Pennsylvania. Augustus Feleccia and Justin Resch sued Lackawanna Junior College in 2012, two years after they were injured while performing the drill in practice. Last month, a state Superior Court panel allowed their lawsuit to proceed, saying the case raises questions for a jury to decide. A lower court had dismissed the case on grounds the former players signed away their rights to sue before they were hurt.
While some teams still employ the Oklahoma Drill, claiming it gets players ready for the heavy contact of football, they may want to reconsider in light of the increased risk of injury and litigation.