Arkansas athletes sue NCAA over concusssions | Arkansas Blog

Arkansas athletes sue NCAA over concusssions

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DEREK OWENS: In the open field.
  • UCA
  • DEREK OWENS: In the open field.
The New York Times reports today on a class action lawsuit against the NCAA alleging negligence toward the risk of concussions in college sports.

Plaintiffs include two Arkansas athletes, but the article focuses almost exclusively on Derek Owens of Russellville, injured fielding a punt for the University of Central Arkansas in a tackle so fierce it was heralded in a Tulsa newspaper, which called the tackler "headhunter." It wasn't his first concussion, but his life hasn't been the same since, his mother said, though he played the rest of that season. Owens troubles are the focus of a story relating to growing concern about long-term effect of athletic head injuries and details his experience both at UCA and in joining the lawsuit.

Another plaintiff is Angela Palacios, 19, who played soccer at Ouachita Baptist University.

The lawsuit provides details of her complaint. She suffered concussions in high school. Though OBU was aware of this and though she wore protective headgear, she says the school trainer failed to send her to an emergency room after a practice head injury and the coach insisted for a time on her participation in running drills though she complained of injury symptoms. She finally sought medical attention herself and was told she had a concussion and should sit out of sports for two weeks. She said the NCAA was negligent in not having "return to play" rules to cover situations such as hers.

The NCAA says the suit, which doesn't name universities as defendants, is without merit. UCA would not comment for the Times article about Owens' extensive remarks.

The 2011-12 N.C.A.A. Sports Medicine Handbook devotes four pages (pp. 53-56) to brain concussions, including symptoms, and it lists a revised 2010 “management plan” for all athletes showing signs of concussion. But the Owens suit insists the N.C.A.A. guidelines of the time did not prepare him for how he would feel after repeated concussions.

“I consider myself lucky,” Owens said. “I’m not drooling. I can perform daily tasks.” As he gears up to return to classes next semester, he said he could feel a “night-and-day difference.” He said his headaches, depression and anxiety had gone down in recent weeks, but his mother and his girlfriend, Shelby Twedt, said he still had his down moments.

Owens loves his sport and his college. But he said he would be happier if people could pursue football and other contact sports — even field punts — and be better prepared, and treated for whatever comes crashing down on them.

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