Now that football season is here, we should be mindful that the highest priority of the game should be the safety and well-being of the athletes. Unfortunately, this has not always been the case.
On August 28, 2011, Derek Sheely died as a result of second-impact syndrome. This syndrome occurs when the brain swells rapidly after a person suffers a second concussion before symptoms from an earlier concussion have subsided. On August 22, 2013, the family of Derek Sheely filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the NCAA, Kranos, George L. Heider, Inc., two Frostburg State University coaches, and a Frostburg State athletic trainer, asserting that Derek’s death was a preventable tragedy.
Last month, the Parties announced that a settlement was reached. The settlement provides that the Defendants will pay $1,200,000.00 to The Derek Sheely Foundation. In addition to the this payment, the Parties agreed to the following terms that are aimed at increasing awareness and research about concussions.
- The NCAA and FSU, in conjuction with The Derek Sheely Foundation, agreed to sponsor and fund a symposium in honor of Derek Sheely. It will focus on reduction of catastrophic risk to student-athletes and will be presented to coaches, trainers, sports medicine personnel, student-athletes, youth, and parents.
- FSU will establish an annual Derek Sheely Foundation fundraiser on campus.
- FSU will provide sufficient funding to enable The Derek Thomson Sheely Leadership Award to be increased to a full-tuition scholarship for a minimum of 10 years, and potentially longer, to begin on or before the 2017-2018 academic year.
- The NCAA and FSU, in conjunction with The Derek Sheely Foundation, will make a research award towards a project dealing with catastrophic risk.
- FSU will retire Derek Sheely’s number and display it in a location on campus.
- The NCAA will continue to discuss with its member institutions policies regarding concussion guideline enforcement, concussion and second-impact syndrome training for coaches and trainers and elimination of certain drills.
- The NCAA will produce a new video addressing risks of head injuries, including second-impact syndrome, in sports that will be available to member institutions on or before June 1, 2017.
Paul Anderson, the attorney for the Sheely Foundation, stated: “This is a tremendous result that will guarantee that The Derek Sheely Foundation will be able to continue its mission of protecting the health and safety of athletes, while also ensuring that Derek’s legacy lives on through the Foundation. This unprecedented litigation and subsequent settlement have solidified that second-impact syndrome is not an inherent risk of sport and that those who are responsible for the safety of athletes must take affirmative action to prevent a tragedy like Derek’s from ever happening again.”
Hopefully, this senseless tragedy will not be in vain. Because of the work of the Sheely Foundation and others to educate and train coaches and their staffs, the risks associated with football and other sports can be minimized. This landmark settlement will no doubt go a long way in that regard.