Commentary on Selected Safety, Risk and Liability Topics | Head Health Network
Commentary on Selected Safety, Risk and Liability Topics

Concussion Management Plan: A concussion management plan is a documented plan designed to improve the prevention, recognition, evaluation and management of concussions in student-athletes. Establishing a concussion management plan is a fundamental step in ensuring the safety of student athletes and minimizing an organization’s liability. Once established, it is critical that the concussion management plan is communicated to, and well understood by all relevant parties. Further, when a concussive injury occurs, it is critical that the concussion management plan is followed.

Certified Athletic Trainers: Providing athletes with access to Certified Athletic Trainers during activities has the potential to reduce risk for schools because Certified Athletic Trainers are trained in the latest concussion management techniques and their primary purpose is the safety and well-being of the athletes. However, if schools fail to provide proper guidance, instruction, assessment and auditing of an athletic trainer’s performance, an abundance of liability still exists.

Waivers and Sovereign Immunity: Many falsely believe that pre-participation waivers and sovereign immunity laws will protect their school, coaches, and staff in the event of lawsuits. These have proven to be imperfect and dangerous assumptions and there is ample precedent in which schools have lost lawsuits due to the negligent actions of their officials or failure to comply with an accepted standard of care.

Protective Equipment: Some have attempted to appease safety concerns and reduce risk by investing in the latest protective equipment in various sports. However, despite marketing claims, equipment such as new helmets cannot prevent concussions and do not eliminate the risk or liability associated with concussions. The use of equipment that does not meet the required safety standards would expose schools to additional risk, but focusing school resources on improved equipment ahead of or at the exclusion of delivering the proper standard of care to athletes would be especially problematic.

Impact Sensors/Monitors: Used primarily in contact sports such as football, impact sensors monitor head impacts and provides this information to coaches and athletic trainers. The most reputable sensors come from Riddell, Head Health Network and I1 Biometrics; each has its own unique characteristics and attributes. For example, some offer real-time monitoring with customizable incident notification systems. Sensors alone do not improve safety or reduce risk of injury, but if used in conjunction with a proactive safety management plan, they can be an extremely valuable tool.

Baseline Testing: Some schools have implemented preseason baseline cognitive testing for all or some of their athletes. Baseline testing can be a critical component in helping identify when players have recovered sufficiently after a concussion. Baseline testing is required in all major professional sports leagues and in collegiate athletics. There are many reputable baseline tests on the market and if possible schools should consider implementing them as a best practice.

Concussion Insurance: Some states and school districts have elected to provide concussion insurance policies for all their student athletes. The policies are supplemental and available through two main insurance providers. While these policies do not make participation in athletics safer, they do help minimize barriers to accessing the proper care and are considered a best practice.