Do I Have a Legal Case if My Child Develops CTE from Sports?


April 29, 2019 / Personal Injury

Thanks largely to the research of neuropathologist Dr. Ann McKee and her team at Boston University’s CTE Center, more and more is becoming known about the connection between sports and CTE, or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. This degenerative disease — caused by repeated concussions and other traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) — is definitively diagnosable only after death, but it has been linked to myriad problems in life, including anxiety, depression, personality changes, and memory and thinking problems.

In 2017, Dr. McKee released the results of a study of the brains of former football players. Of the 111 former NFL players included in the research, all but one were posthumously diagnosed with CTE.

In 2018, she released research that should make every parent whose child has played tackle football (or other contact sports) take note. The study involved examining the brains of deceased former football players, both amateur and professional, and interviewing their family members. Alarmingly, the players who had taken up the game before age 12 began experiencing symptoms of CTE “an average of 13 years earlier” than their later-starting peers.

Is CTE Preventable?

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 283,000 kids land in U.S. emergency rooms every year for a sports- or recreation-related TBI. Almost half of those injuries are sustained in a contact sport. If your child is involved with football, soccer, hockey, field hockey, cheerleading, lacrosse, or other activities with a head injury risk, there are steps you can take to reduce the repeated concussions that are associated with CTE.

  • Make sure your child always wears the appropriate helmet and gear for the activity. Keep in mind, though, that there are no concussion-proof helmets.
  • Tell your kid to notify a coach if there are holes or uneven spots in the playing field.
  • Teach your children to play safely and avoid unnecessary aggression.

And beyond sports:

  • If you have toddlers or infants in the house, install sturdy baby gates at the top and bottom of staircases.
  • Choose playgrounds on soft surfaces.
  • Always have your children ride in properly installed, age- and size-appropriate car seats or boosters.

Do I Have a Legal Case for My Child’s CTE?

In 2018, the widow of Division I college football player Greg Ploetz sued the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), alleging they were responsible for the death of her husband, who suffered neurological issues and was found to have CTE after his death. The case was settled three days into the trial.

CTE cases with living victims are a bit trickier, because typically the condition is not diagnosed until after death. Symptoms that appear while the person is alive are circumstantial, and they may not manifest until well after his or her involvement with the sport is over. And, as with any personal injury suit, the plaintiff must prove that another party — whether a school district, a coach, or an equipment manufacturer — is at fault.

If you would like to file a CTE lawsuit on behalf of your child, you need an experienced brain injury lawyer on your side. Call the Indiana law offices of Stephenson Rife and request a free consultation with Mike Stephenson or one of his colleagues. Give us a call or contact us online to get started.

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