The family of a former football player at Belt High School in Montana filed a lawsuit this week, claiming negligence in a series of events that has left him paralyzed.
On September 12, 2014, Robert Back collapsed during a home football game, suffering a traumatic brain injury that left him paralyzed.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in county court, alleges that head football coach Jeff Graham, the Belt School District, athletic trainer Jessica Hansen and Benefis Health System are at fault for Back’s injuries due to several missteps that occurred during the return-to-play process following a concussion.
The week before his collapse, Back suffered a head injury during an away game. He was taken to a Benefis emergency room and diagnosed with a ‘minor closed head injury’ after exhibiting concussion-like symptoms, according to Montana TV-station KFBB. Later that week, he was diagnosed with a concussion and given a doctor’s note saying he was not to return to football activities until September 15 -- three days after his collapse.
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Montana law requires athletes to stop showing concussion symptoms, receive a medical evaluation and have written clearance to return to play after suffering a concussion.The suit alleges that that protocol was not properly followed.
According to the lawsuit, Graham instructed Back to take a concussion evaluation test called imPACT on September 10 as a part of the school's concussion protocol. Athletic trainer Jennifer Hansen reviewed the imPACT results the following day, but never evaluated or checked Back’s medical records. Back participated in a no-contact practice that afternoon and reportedly appeared confused and disoriented.
The suit claims that on the following day, Back was verbally cleared to play by either Graham or Hansen, despite doctor’s orders.
The school district released a statement on Wednesday:
"Belt School recently received a copy of a complaint filed against the Belt School District by the Back family. Since this tragic event, we have been and continue to be deeply concerned for the welfare of Robert and his family. We disagree with assertions of wrongdoing on the part of the district or its employees. Our attorneys are reviewing the complaint and will prepare an appropriate response."
The family is seeking upwards of $20 million in damages. Back is now a quadriplegic, requiring round-the-clock care.