Pop Warner Lawsuit – Wrongful Death by CTE
By Attorney Gordon Johnson of the Brain Injury Law Group – 800-992-9447
Joseph Chernach never played college football, never played pro football, yet the violent game of football cost him his life. Joseph died of CTE related suicide, with his exposure to the repetitive trauma that leaves its legacy brain damage and death, being four years of Pop Warner football, four years of high school football. After Joseph’s death in 2012, an autopsy was done on his brain which showed that he suffered from the disease of Dementia Pugilistica, also known as CTE.
In bringing this Pop Warner lawsuit for wrongful death, his mother Debra Pyka alleges tackle football for children is so inherently dangerous that Pop Warner should be held strictly liable for the consequences. Her lawsuit claims that Joseph’s death was a direct consequence of the disease of CTE/Dementia Pugislistica.
The lawsuit focuses on how much more vulnerable children are to head trauma and CTE than adults. The Pop Warner lawsuit alleges that Pop Warner was negligent in exposing the children to the risk of repetitive head trauma. The allegations of negligence in the Pop Warner lawsuit include:
- Allowing small children to play a violent pseudo warrior sport of tackle football with the dangerous instrumentality of the football helmet;
- By using amateur coaches with short tenures, who were never properly trained in the game of football, injury prevention, concussion or head injury identification;
- By failing to enforce limitations on hitting in practice;
- By failing to require that properly trained athletic trainers be in attendance at all games and practices and that such trainers have independent power to pull a player out of play in the case of a possible concussion;
- By failing to have a training program for all trainers, including that all coaches and athletic trainers be certified in concussion identification and return to play rules;
- Failing to use the safest helmets. Often old and recycled football helmets were used;
- By failing to properly train coaches, trainers and other supervising adults as to the proper fit for football helmets;
- By failing to provide even the modicum of protection that professional and collegiate players have from injury that comes from a strict enforcement of football’s rules and penalties. Pop Warner’s games are not refereed by highly trained officials, who have been taught in the importance of safer tackling techniques, personal fouls and the increased safety that comes from enforcing such rules. Instead, most games are refereed by crews that include other children. During the period of time that Joseph Chernach played Pop Warner football, few if any personal fouls were called in his games;
- Failure to monitor play to ensure that rules are strictly enforced;
- By failing to warn about the risk of brain damage and dementia pugilistica;
- Failing to implement concussion identification and return to play rules;
- Failing to implement baseline brain testing of all players so that concussions can be more easily monitored;
- By failing to warn either Joseph Chernach or his parents of the risks of permanent brain damage from playing Pop Warner football. Pop Warner was in a superior position to Joseph Chernach or his parents to appreciate the risk of permanent brain damage from playing tackle football with a helmet – for a child.