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NCAA settles football death lawsuit for $1.2 million

For the first time, the NCAA has agreed to pay the family of a student-athlete who died of a brain injury. The NCAA, together with other defendants, has settled a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of a football player who suffered a fatal head injury in a 2011 practice. The parents will receive $1.2 million in the settlement.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the victim was a senior fullback at Division III Frostburg State University. He had suffered a concussion the previous season that may not have fully healed. But when he complained of a headache at practice one day, an assistant coach cursed out the victim, questioned his manhood and told him to “get back out there.”

Later that day, the victim suffered the brain injury that took his life.

The parents accused the university of failing to properly treat their son’s prior concussion, leaving him vulnerable to “second-impact syndrome.” In addition, their lawsuit said the football team’s practices were overly intense and “served more as a gladiatorial thrill for the coaches than learning sessions for the players.”

Though the NCAA and other defendants do not admit liability in the settlement, the attorney for the parents called the agreement “a landmark settlement.” The $1.2 million payment will go to a foundation and a scholarship fund the parents founded in their son’s name. Some of the money will come from the state of Maryland in the name of team staff members who were sued.

With increasing safety awareness about the dangers of repeated head trauma, athletes at all levels of competition have come to appreciate the long-term risks associated with concussions. Whereas 30 years ago most sports coaches and educators assumed that head trauma was simply an “inherent risk of the sport” now, coaches and athletic directors know better and recognize their duty to reasonably prevent blows to the head.