Football-related brain injuries continue to be a subject of contention recently. A woman is suing the NCAA, Schutt Sports company, and two college football coaches for the wrongful death of her son, Derek Sheely, who died due to brain injuries sustained during Division III preseason practices in 2011. A fullback for Maryland’s Frostburg State University died due to a combination of factors. Kristen Sheely, Derek’s mother, claims an ill-fitted helmet, barbaric drills forced by coaches, and the coaches’ negligence all contributed to her son’s death. She said, “Utter incompetence, egregious misconduct, false hope and a reckless disregard for player health and safety lead to the tragic death of Derek Sheely.”
The helmet Derek was wearing, which was made by Schutt Sports, was not accurately fitted to protect the young player from withstanding brain injuries. However, Kristen Sheely claims the University and its players were given a false sense of security with the “protective” gear. She suggests that the sportswear company did not take appropriate measure to test the helmet, and it ultimately failed to protect her son. As a result, the accuser claims Schutt Sports is responsible for the fatal injuries her son endured.
Kristen Sheely describes the drills performed during the preseason practices as “a gladiatorial thrill for the coaches” instead of a learning experience for the players. The brutal “Oklahoma Drill” that caused Derek’s death is considered completely useless and extremely dangerous by many National Football League teams, and many refuse to accept it as an effective way to hone player skills. The deadly drill forced the Frostburg State University players to take thirty to forty blows to the head without the ability to defend themselves. Why would a Division III NCAA team adopt such a treacherous drill that most NFL teams won’t even use?
Within a three day period, Derek Sheely was forced to attend two-a-day practices in which he sustained continuous head injuries, yet the school’s athletic trainer never stopped to check Derek, or any of the other players, for signs of concussion. Derek displayed two obvious signs of head injury– a change in behavior and physical wound. According to Derek’s teammates, his behavior became increasingly lethargic and he was bleeding from the head. Still his coaches did nothing to help him. Instead, Derek was verbally abused and forced to continue the fatal drill. Coach Shumacher yelled at Derek when he informed him of his condition. He said, “Stop your bitching and moaning and quit acting like a pussy and get back out there!” Derek succumbed to his brain injuries when a final collision with another player sent him into a coma to which he never returned.
As a result of Derek’s death, Kristen Sheely filed a lawsuit seeking compensation and punitive damages for her son’s wrongful death, product liability, and negligent hiring. She has also started The Derek Sheely Foundation that campaigns for awareness and prevention of sports-related concussions and head injuries through their Concussion Awareness Kits. This is an extremely sad case of brain injury claim, yet it shows the importance of a personal injury attorney not only to seek damages, but to raise awareness and force people to change their harmful ways.
Byline: Kristen Valek is a writer for Alamo Injury Attorneys, a San Antonio firm that specializes in Personal Injury Law. Kristen felt extreme sorrow while writing this post, it is such a sad story.