In a Journal News article on Thursday, October 3, 2013 the headline read “Boy has football brain injury”. This occurred at the Mahopac Middle School during practice when the student was struck in the head without a helmet on. Justin Sacco suffered a fractured skull and arterial bleeding in his brain. He was rushed to Westchester Medical Center where emergency surgery was performed to remove a blood clot and stop the bleeding in his brain. Justin then remained in a medically induced coma.

Head injuries among football players are mostly concussions or bruising of the brain. These football injuries have been a growing concern in how players practice and how to make tackles to avoid these injuries and an improvement in helmet design.

The result of the attention of football injuries has lead to a decrease in young football players. USA Football oversees recreational leagues across the USA and they estimate youth participation has dropped off to about 2.82 million players from 3 million in 2011. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed data from 2001 – 2009 of brain injuries resulting in emergency room visits. For players 19 and younger, football related cases ranked second after bicycling. Football resulted in the highest of all pediatric injuries (394,350) and had the highest concussion rate (40 per 10,000). Wrestling and cheerleading had the second highest concussion rate (15 per 10,000 and 12 per 10,000).

The Journal News reported on Friday, October 4, 2013 that Justin took 20 steps towards recovery, 5 days after suffering a traumatic brain injury while throwing a football around. Justin’s father told the reporter “It’s almost like Justin had a stroke that’s affecting the left side of his body …” The long term prognosis is unclear. Justin was moved to Blythedale Children’s Hospital in Valhalla for a lengthy rehabilitation. The doctors say there should be a 100% full movement on his left side”. There is no permanent paralysis. Justin has three brothers and all play football.

The article reports that none of the eighth graders were wearing helmets and they were going to do a “walk through practice” Further investigation revealed that a football was thrown in Justin’s direction and he was knocked to the ground. When he went to pick the ball up another teammate sprinted to the football and was unable to stop and his knee hit the right side of Justin’s head. Even after Justin was hit, he continued to practice and did a lap around the field and then took a knee. Justin told his dad that his head was killing him. An assistant coach warned of a concussion. Within two hours, Justin was brought to Putnam Hospital Center in Carmel, New York and a CT scan revealed a major problem and Justin was air lifted to Westchester County Medical Center. Dr. Mohan performed emergency surgery to relieve the pressure Justin’s brain. The operation took approximately one hour and one-half hours and went well.

Whenever a child engages in a sport activity the law imposes a defense called “sports assumption of risk”. This means for normal injuries, cuts, bruises, fractured bones, a child has no recourse against the school district or football association. However, whenever the facts are out of the ordinary (i.e. practicing without a helmet even when not using pads) this creates a right for the injured player and in this case, the end result of the injuries are still not known.

If you, or someone you know, were seriously injured while engaging in a sport activity, we request that you contact our at (914) 288-0800.

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