If you run a basic Google search for “sue school over injury” you’ll find 12,700,000 results. You might come across stories like this one, where a high school student is suing her school after getting hit in the head with a tennis ball during gym class. Or something like this, where a school in England ripped up their playground after paying millions of dollars to students that got hurt; including “a child who got more than £15,000 after falling off a wall and another who collected £6,000 after cutting a leg while sliding down a banister.” Many of us feel like we live in a “sue-happy” culture and too many parents are looking to point the finger at someone else when their child gets hurt. But even with the best intentions and precautions accidents happen in youth sports and kids can and will get hurt. But when that happens who is to blame?
In some cases, like the story of the Idaho football player who was put back into the game after suffering a concussion and collapsed two plays later, the football coaches and/or athletic trainers who cleared him to play without properly evaluating him are clearly at fault. The 2012 Idaho Legislature passed a law that says if a youth athlete “has sustained a concussion or head injury and exhibits outward signs or symptoms of such … then the youth athlete shall be removed from play.” The athlete will only be allowed to return to play once he or she is “evaluated and authorized to return by a qualified health care professional who is trained in the evaluation and management of concussions.” Putting the player right back into the game is in clear violation of this law.
But in other scenarios there isn’t a clear “bad guy” we can’t blame the injury on. For instance, if two soccer players collide because both of them are trying to head a ball and one of them suffers a concussion then who is at fault? Is it the other player who walked away unharmed? Is it the coach that taught the player how to do a header in the first place? Or if a basketball player lands wrong after a jump shot and tears their ACL is the school at fault? Can you sue Nike if the player was wearing that brand’s shoes?
The middle school that banned balls at recess stated that ““Some of these injuries can unintentionally become very serious, so we want to make sure our children have fun, but are also protected.” The school feels that by removing things like footballs and soccer balls kids are less likely to get hurt during recess.
Obviously no parent wants to get a phone call from the school saying their child has broken their arm at recess, but are skinned knees and a few bruises from falling off the monkey bars really cause to sue a school? Connecticut parents are suing the school after their daughter broke her ankle during a late night game of tag, alleging that “the teachers should have inspected the playground before bringing the students there, and questioned the teachers’ judgment in bringing students “to a poorly lit area at 10:30 p.m. to play tag when they knew or should have known that such an activity was dangerous.”
With stories like this flooding the search results can you really blame schools for banning footballs at recess?