The state of Iowa expects more lawsuits to be filed after a former high school football player was awarded close to $1 million when a U.S. District Court found that his school district was at fault for complications due to head injuries he sustained while playing football.

Kacey Strough is now in a wheelchair as a result of head injuries he believed occurred while playing football at his high school three years ago. The jury faulted the school district because the school nurse was negligent in alerting coaches, as well as Strough’s guardian, of a possible concussion.

Strough is the first former Iowa athlete receiving these damages from a school.

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Despite a statement from Alan Beste, the Iowa High School Athletic Association’s executive director, emphasizing that the association is doing what they can to protect students, many don’t believe that they are doing enough.

Troy Kleese is a certified athletic trainer, as well as the director for physiotherapy associates with Iowa Sports Medicine, and in his opinion, Iowa needs to have stricter rules about who can determine when an athlete can return to play following a head injury.

Iowa has concussion legislation that was passed in 2011, which required coaches to take an online course highlighting concussion awareness and for players and their parents to sign concussion fact sheets that provide information about concussions and their risks. Additionally, a medical protocol outlines an athlete’s removal from and return to play.

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In 2013, an upgrade to the legislation stated that a licensed health care worker needed to provide written permission in order for athletes to return to play after a concussion. New guidelines will be put in place this fall limiting football contact.

However, according to Kleese, the return-to-play procedures are too broad in their definition of who is considered a licensed health care provider who is able to clear an athlete for play. Included professionals are a physician, a physician’s assistant, a chiropractor, an advanced registered nurse practitioner, a nurse, a physical therapist or a license athletic trainer. Kleese would like to see this definition limited to a doctor or osteopath.

Additionally, Nicholas Johnson, a former sports law professor at the University of Iowa, said that schools can protect themselves from concussion lawsuits by providing more training for coaches, administrators and parents, by requiring doctors to approve athletes’ returns to play and making sure physicians are on the sidelines.

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