NCAA Settles With Family of Football Player Who Died After Head Injury

August 10, 2016

The National Collegiate Athletic Association and five co-defendants will pay $1.2 million to settle a lawsuit brought by the family of a Frostburg State University football player who died after suffering a head injury in 2011. Three Frostburg State staff members, helmet manufacturer Kranos Corp. and retailer George L. Heider Inc. also agreed to the settlement.

The lawsuit alleged that Derek Sheely, a Division III football player at Frostburg State, had earlier suffered a concussion and complained of a headache during a preseason practice in August 2011. He had complained of similar headaches days earlier, as well, and had a bruise on his forehead. According to the lawsuit, instead of pulling Sheely from practice, an assistant coach told him to "Stop your bitching and moaning and quit acting like a pussy and get back out there." Later, while running a drill, Sheely collapsed.

''This is a landmark settlement not just because it is the first brain-injury case that the NCAA has agreed to pay a significant amount of money to resolve, but also because the stakeholders of football are now on notice that they have an obligation to protect the health and safety of the athletes,'' Kenneth McClain, attorney for Sheely's parents, told the Associated Press.

In May, several former college football players from six institutions filed class action lawsuits alleging that their universities, athletic conferences and the National Collegiate Athletic Association were negligent in their handling of the players' head injuries. The athletes who filed the lawsuits all played college football prior to 2010, when the NCAA began requiring its members to have concussion protocols. The lawsuits were filed by former football players for Auburn, Pennsylvania State and Vanderbilt Universities and the Universities of Georgia, Oregon and Utah.

The NCAA was first sued over concussions in 2011. That lawsuit was then joined by several others, becoming a class action. Earlier this year, a judge approved a settlement in the case that includes the NCAA creating new safety protocols and providing $70 million for medical screenings for former college athletes. That settlement included no payments for players already suffering from head injuries, however.

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