Sports Law

Manatt-Sponsored Symposium on Concussions Gathers Top Experts 

In the wake of the highly publicized settlement agreement between the NFL and approximately 4,500 former players over concussion-related brain injuries, in which the NFL agreed to pay out $765 million, Manatt sponsored a successful symposium exploring problems and proposed solutions related to sports-induced concussions.

The symposium, hosted by the Institute of Sports Law and Ethics at Santa Clara Law on September 12, 2013, featured several top experts and well-known personalities, including Ronnie Lott and Brent Jones of the San Francisco 49ers, Brandi Chastain of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, Alan Schwarz of The New York Times, and Dr. Robert Cantu of the Boston University School of Medicine. Each participant offered his or her perspective on the issue of concussions in professional, intercollegiate, and youth sports, and opined on what must be done to lessen the number and severity of sports-related head injuries.

Some of the participants, including Lott, felt that teaching proper tackling technique and educating players (and fans) about the dangers of hitting above the shoulders were important keys to solving the problem. Others placed emphasis on medical research, developing improved technologies and safety gear, and regularly replacing damaged or worn-out equipment. All of the participants, however, were in agreement that action needed to be taken to protect not only professional athletes, but also college athletes and children who play contact sports.

One of the panels, moderated by Chastain, discussed how concussions are not limited to just football. Soccer players, for example, are subject to concussions if they inadvertently knock heads with another player. The panel participants also pointed out that even repeatedly “heading” a soccer ball in practice or on the field has been linked to sub-concussive brain injuries.

Interestingly, nearly all of the former professional athletes who spoke admitted to suffering multiple concussions over the course of their careers, and several admitted to misleading team doctors about how they were feeling in order to get back out onto the field as quickly as possible. Perhaps one of the biggest challenges to solving this problem will be to instill a new attitude in players, coaches, and parents that it is okay to come out of the game after suffering a blow to the head. Sitting out after a concussion and seeking medical attention does not mean the player is weak—it means the player is smart.

In addition to Manatt, gold sponsors of the event included the San Francisco 49ers, the Oakland Athletics, and the San Jose Sharks. Below are links to some of the press coverage of the event:

"Concussion experts gather in Santa Clara to talk about concussions in sports," San Jose Mercury News

"Ronnie Lott Talks Concussions at Santa Clara University Symposium," NBC Bay Area

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