Many teams, coaches and players value one thing above all else: toughness. It is this sort of mentality that has led to expectations that injured players will continue playing no matter what the issue is. Such behavior is admirable and potentially heroic, depending on the outcome of the game. But this mindset has caused many individuals to continue playing after receiving a traumatic brain injury and in a specific case, it may have caused the wrongful death of a 22-year-old student from Frostburg State University in Maryland.
The college athlete's parents have filed a lawsuit alleging wrongful death against the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the school, the team's head coach and the manufacturer of the helmet that the 22-year-old was wearing at the time of his death. The suit contends that on Aug. 22, 2011, the now-deceased man took part in a grueling training known as an "Oklahoma drill." During this training drill, several linebackers and fullbacks collided head-to-head. The 22-year-old was practicing as a fullback at the time and the suit alleges that during this training session, he and other players were exposed to several concussive blows.
Suffering concussive blows repetitively and in succession can cause what one doctor called second-impact syndrome. This occurs when a person receives another concussion on top of a concussion that has not already healed, potentially leading to severe brain swelling and potential rupturing from the brain stem. During practice, the 22-year-old told an assistant coach that a headache was bothering him and after walking off the field, he collapsed and slipped into a coma for nearly a week. Then, he died. Reports suggest that he was never checked for a concussion during the intense training session. According to the lawsuit, the athlete died due to preventable brain trauma. The suit also notes that the school's athletic policies do not contain the word "concussion" in any manner.
Source: Lawyers and Settlements, "Massive NFL Brain Injury Lawsuit Settlement in Play, Families Continue to Sue" Gordon Gibb, Sep. 09, 2013