By Ken Reed

Last month, in a lawsuit brought by the family of a severely injured high school football player, a Colorado state-court jury found several parties at fault, including helmet maker Riddell, for failing to warn players adequately about the dangers of concussions.

The jury awarded $11.5 million to the family of football player Rhett Ridolfi, who suffered a serious concussion during practice at Trinidad High School in 2008. Ridolfi wasn’t immediately taken to the hospital and now suffers severe brain damage and paralysis on his left side.

The jury assessed 27 percent of the fault for Ridolfi’s injuries to Riddell, which amounts to $3.1 million. Several high school administrators and football coaches in the Trinidad area, 200 miles south of Denver were also targeted. Three of those individuals reached confidential settlements.

The case can serve as a preview of the legal and insurance challenges that public school districts around the country will increasingly have to face if they continue to sponsor middle and high school football. Inevitably, the new brain research on concussions and sub-concussive hits to the head will lead to more lawsuits at all levels of the game, including high school football. Football-related risk and liability will be hard to contain for public school districts. And, when risk and liability can’t be contained, insurance premium costs will shoot up, making the sponsoring of football cost prohibitive for high schools.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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