Are Youth Sports A Lightning Rod for Legal Action?

My daughter played multiple youth sports growing up and eventually played soccer for Coe College. It was a wonderful experience for her, which has taught her a great deal she can call upon her entire life. She is a math teacher in a middle school just outside of Madison WI and has already started coaching.Tessa SportsI’m concerned that she will be targeted for legal action at some point in the future. I’m almost certain that if she continues to coach she will have players who suffer injuries; some of them might be very serious.

1.35 Million ER Visits

The National Underwriter issued a story on September 4, 2014 that focused on youth sports injuries. According to that story 1.35 million young players suffered an injury during 2012 that required an Emergency Room visit. Nearly 164,000 of those visits were diagnosed as concussions.

During her sophomore year my daughter’s roommate was a girl who had played soccer her freshman year, but was unable to continue due to short-term memory problems attributed to concussions. She was a lovely girl who probably will have to deal with this the rest of her life.

A year ago a friend of mine who played for the Minnesota Vikings told me that he was starting to have problems with memory. I wasn’t shocked as he was noted for his play and was named captain of the special teams by Bud Grant.

Today’s Minneapolis Tribune carries a letter to the editor from a mother who wishes that thirty years ago she had refused to allow her son to play football. His concussions have caused long negative impacts.

Players Too Young to Make an Informed Decision

How long will it be before suits start flying that hold schools and other sports authorities responsible for not explaining the probability of injury? Even if the probability of injury is explained in depth the injured person will contend that they were incapable of assessing the gravity of the situation.

Consider that 59% of high school football and college players believe they will receive a college scholarship.  Many of them imagine themselves to be pro material, when the reality is only 1 in 16,000 high school athletes attains a professional career in sports.

Some Do Make It

I’ve coached dozens of youth sports teams. I’ve officiated hundreds of high school and grade school football and basketball games. I coached tennis at the high school level in 1969 when my team took second in the state.  I’m a huge sports advocate.

Yet, I’ve been outspoken about the problems involved in youth sports for the last full decade. During that time I had an ongoing debate with a friend who believed I was being too harsh in my assessment.

I would tell him how seventy percent of those who start in youth sports would drop out by junior high. I would quote numbers like those stated above to show him that young players were self-deluded and that youth coaches were culpable for perpetuating the myths of success.

Who knew his son would grow eleven inches between his sophomore and junior year in high school? Who knew his son would get a scholarship to Wisconsin to play for Bo Ryan? Who knew his son, Jon Leuer, would evidentially go on to play in the NBA?

Yes . . . it does happen. But for every Jon Leuer there are nearly 10,000 high school players who will not achieve what they think is a reasonable goal. There are 10,000 high school kids who are making decisions based on erroneous assumptions. There are 10,000 young kids who will have a plausible argument that they were taking a risk based on incomplete and specious knowledge.

Agents Need to Speak Up

Insurance agents reading this blog should take it upon themselves to discuss youth sports injury figures with sports leaders in their communities.

Don’t assume that only boys playing football are at risk. Actually girls are eight times as likely to have an ACL injury as boys. My daughter had knee surgery. My three boys were relatively injury free although one played college football and one college soccer. They both dropped out of their sports in college, which we now all look at as a blessing.

When someone is being seen every three minutes in the United States for a concussion–related injury, this qualifies as a national epidemic.

There are lawyers licking their lips over class action suits to come. Talk to your customers about the potential for them to be named in the class action, if they serve as a coach or board member for youth or school sports.

Offer to review league practices for risk management or to help them understand their liability issues and the policies they have in place or should have in place.

My experience with school administrations have left me shaking my head at their lack of understanding of what is needed and why. You can help. An outside eye might be just what is needed.


One thought on “Are Youth Sports A Lightning Rod for Legal Action?

  1. Great article Jim!

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