Head Trauma Injury...The Next Asbestos?
The incidents and claims arising from head trauma injury are on the rise. There’s no doubt this has trickled down from what has been experienced in professional sports. At least 50 high school or younger football players in more than 20 states since 1997 have been killed or sustained serious head injuries on the field, according to research by The New York Times. Although sports injuries contribute to fatalities infrequently, the leading cause of death from sports-related injuries is traumatic brain injury.
Sports and recreational activities contribute to about 21 percent of all traumatic brain injuries among American children and adolescents, as noted by the Neurological Research and Education Foundation. As many states and municipalities begin to examine the need for specific laws on the issue and educational entities look for ways to address this new exposure to risk, I want to offer some strategies that all educational entities can consider when improving their head trauma protocols.
First, you and your leadership team should ask yourselves the following questions:
- Does your school have a concussion management protocol?
- Does the protocol include training in recognizing the signs/symptoms of a concussion or other closed head injury?
- Is the training required for all coaches/faculty involved in physical education or sports instruction? Are you looking beyond the more common sports giving rise to this exposure such as volleyball, cheerleading, boxing, cycling and soccer?
- Is there a protocol when a concussion is suspected?
- Does the program address proper equipment selection, training, maintenance and use of equipment?
- Do you have an independent medical observer watching out for all head injuries occurring on the field?
From an insurance solution standpoint, head trauma injuries can manifest over a period of time creating unexpected legal issues. Be prepared for the contiguous trigger that may involve the coverage provided by many previous insurance companies. Be prepared now, and ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you have a good record of current and previous carriers, limits and policies?
- Is coverage provided in your umbrella liability policies?
- Do these carriers exclude athletic participation or head trauma injuries?
- Do you have good records of participants, coaches, procedures, etc.?
- Does your legal counsel have access to colleagues with special expertise and experience with head trauma injuries?
- Does your current insurance professional have an experienced claims staff to advocate on your behalf?
Understanding and being aware of traumatic head injuries is important. As such, I’ll continue to write about this growing risk management concern. If you need more information on sports-related risks, chat with a member of the ‘A’ Team today.
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