Policy/Biz

North Idaho Family Sues School And Football Helmet Company For Son's 'Permanent And Irreversible' Disability

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Riddell Helmet
A North Idaho football player’s family sues his school district and Riddell for the brain damage that he suffered during a game. Bizkit99, CC BY-SA 3.0

A North Idaho football player was left with a ‘permanent and irreversible’ disability after suffering a traumatic brain injury (TBI) on the field.

Robert Clark II and Julie Clark, parents of Bobby Clark, former high school football player, filed a lawsuit in September on behalf of their son for the brain damage that he suffered at a game as lineman for the Priest River Lamanna High School Spartans. The lawsuit has been filed against West Bonner County School District and football helmet company, Riddell. The parents claim that Bobby was briefly removed from the game, but then put back in by unidentified coaches only to return to the sidelines two plays later collapsing, the Bonner County Daily Bee reports.

The high school football player was "unconscious, disoriented and obviously suffering from a head injury and/or brain injury" during a game against Timberlake High School in Sept. 2011, according to the claim. After collapsing on the sidelines, Bobby was flown to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, where he underwent emergency surgery and was placed on life support, according to the lawsuit. The suit seeks $10,000 in damages for medical costs, lost learning ability, and mental suffering. Bobby is forced to carry a cane after being permanently injured.

The lawsuit also alleges that Riddell built a helmet that “was defective and failed to protect” Bobby. Riddell, the official helmet manufacturer for the National Football League (NFL), was sued along with the league by four former players in September. The players said that they have suffered from repeated blows to the head during their time in the league, according to SB Nation.

The helmet company has emphasized that no piece of equipment is capable of preventing all injuries in active sports. However, Riddell has made false claims in the past regarding the efficiency of its gear. The helmet dubbed “Revolution” by the company was specifically designed to reduce the risk of concussion. Two years before its release in 2002, a biomechanics firm hired by both the NFL and Riddell gave the company a warning about the Revolution helmet. The firm said that while the helmet is capable of passing the industry safety standard for protection against skull fractures, it would still put players at a 95 percent risk of receiving a concussion from a heavy blow, according to Frontline.

According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, sports and recreational activities contribute to approximately 21 percent of all traumatic brain injuries among American children and adolescents. A TBI can occur when the head suddenly and violently hits an object, or when an object pierces the skull and enters brain tissue. While mild cases of TBI may result in a temporary change of mental state or consciousness, severe cases could result in longer periods of unconsciousness, coma, and even death.

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