By Ken Reed

Debra Pyka, a Wisconsin woman is suing Pop Warner, the largest youth football organization in the country. She’s claiming her son’s suicide at age 25 can be traced to playing youth football with Pop Warner.

An autopsy found that Pyka’s son, Joseph Chernach, was suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the same debilitating brain disease that many NFL players have been found to have suffered from, including Junior Seau and Dave Duerson, both of whom also committed suicide.

According to a story about the lawsuit written by Travis Waldron:

“the complaint, which seeks $5 million in damages, asserts that Pop Warner was negligent because it failed to require athletic trainers at games and practices; that it failed to properly train coaches in injury prevention and concussion treatment; and by failing to educate players and parents about possible long-term brain damage that could result from playing football. It also alleges that the organization was negligent because it did not institute proper concussion management or return to play rules for players suspected of having concussions.”

Concussion-related lawsuits have also been filed recently in Illinois and Mississippi against state and national high school athletics associations.

Depending on how these and other potential lawsuits play out, youth and high school football could be placed on the endangered species lists within the next decade, if for no other reason than the likelihood of rising insurance costs for football. In particular, it simply might not be financially feasible for high schools in lower socioeconomic areas to pay growing insurance premiums for football programs.

“Insurers will be tightening up their own coverage and make sports more expensive,” said Robert Boland, a sports law instructor at New York University. “It could make the sustainability of certain sports a real issue.”

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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