SANTA FE, TX - A former Santa Fe High Schooler claims that football practice is the cause for permanent brain damage. His parents filed a lawsuit against Santa Fe ISD, but this week, a federal judge from Galveston dismissed the case.
The judge ruled that the lawsuit had no constitutional grounds to sue Santa Fe ISD and that the district is not responsible for concussions dealt from one player to another.
Attorney Lewis Chandler believes school districts like Santa Fe ISD need to do more to protect their teenage athletes.
"What I think needs to change is the culture of a school district; these kids are going to play and you know, it’s for our entertainment," Chandler said.
in 2018, Chandler filed a lawsuit against the district on behalf of a then sophomore, Chase Yarborough, an offensive lineman for the football team.
The lawsuit claims Yarborough sustained a concussion after repeated, head-to-head contact during practice, and that the coaches and trainers didn’t do enough to prevent or deal with the aftermath.
"He was developing headaches, dizziness, nausea, all the classic symptoms of concussion. He had vision issues, sensitivity to light. It happened over a period of weeks. It wasn’t just this one time or even twice that they inadvertently whacked their heads together. The coaches saw it happening and they encouraged it. Our contention is they actively promoted it. Why? Well, the more aggressive you are, the more games you win. Who cares if a JV player gets whacked out, you know? Doesn’t matter," Chandler said.
Yarborough was also one the 23 people shot during the Santa Fe High School mass shooting in 2018.
Chandler plans on filing an appeal to the judge's dismissal.
According to the Concussion Legacy Foundation, repeated hits to the head, like helmet-to-helmet contact, has been linked to the neurodegenerative disease called CTE.
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy has been diagnosed in more than 100 NFL players like former Patriots star, Aaron Hernandez.
Dr. Dan Daneshvar is an adviser for the CLF. As a brain injury medicine researcher at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Dan has been studying the long-term effects of repetitive head impacts and concussion for over a decade. He cites a recent study from Boston University.
"Every additional year of playing football was associated with the 30% increased risk of having CTE so that translates to doubling your risk of CTE every 2.6 years. If you played longer than 14 and a half years of football in total at all levels, you had a 10 times higher risk of developing CTE," Dr. Dan said.
"Now, interestingly, what we're learning is it might not be concussions that increase your risk of CTE. It's probably the repeated hits to the head that don't actually cause those symptoms," Dr. Dan continued.
He suggests some "common sense changes," to decrease the total number of hits a person's head.
"By decreasing the hits that you get in practice, we can potentially eliminate two thirds of the hits to the head that a kid might get that might put someone in a higher risk of developing CTE," Dr. Dan said.
In a statement, Clay T. Grover, the attorney representing Santa Fe ISD said, "Santa Fe ISD believes that the dismissal of Mr. Yarbrough’s claims was proper. Despite prevailing in the district court, we empathize with Mr. Yarbrough for any injury he may have suffered while playing football. However, the school district follows U.I.L. safety and prevention measures and did so in this case. Unfortunately, in contact sports, injuries occasionally happen."