As most football fans know, the NFL has been struggling with rules changes to address the danger of concussions and Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in players in the wake of expanding medical research on injuries. Colleges and High Schools have implemented strict new guidelines, particularly in preventing helmet to helmet hits. None of that seems to have sunk into Frostburg University, which is accused of a shocking display of ignorance and negligence in the death of Derek Sheely, a 22 year old fullback. According to a lawsuit, Sheely was bleeding and complaining that he did not feel right, but the coach told him “Stop your bitching and moaning and quit acting like a pussy and get back out there.” Sheely collapsed a short time later and never regained consciousness.
The lawsuit says that the football team was doing helmet to helmet hits. The family is suing not just the coaches, but the NCAA and the helmet manufacturer. Named are Frostburg running backs coach Jamie Schumacher, assistant athletic trainer Michael Sweitzer Jr. and helmet manufacturer Schutt Sports.
Schumacher allegedly told players to “lead with your head” and use your “hat first” and ridiculed them if they did not hit with their heads. It was Schumacher who allegedly told him to “stop your bitching.”
Notably, the university is not named as a defendant, though I am not sure why. These coaches are employees of the university and their actions would be presumably covered under respondeat superior. Unless there is a settlement, it is surprising to see the school excluded from the lawsuit. That is particularly the case given the allegations of open and gross negligence. The lawsuit states “One of Derek’s teammates described the demeanor of the practices leading up to Derek’s fatal injury as completely ‘out of control’ . . . What is more, the word ‘concussion’ is not stated a single time in Frostburg’s team policies. Thus, the coaches treated all injuries — brain injuries and ankle sprains — the same: You were expected to play through them.” Sheely had had his head bandaged for several days and was seen bleeding repeatedly over the course of four days. Yet, the family says that he was still expected to play.
The NCAA is facing a massive class action lawsuit over such injuries.
A foundation and facebook site has been established in Derek’s name to bring greater awareness to this danger for athletes.
The dangers of CTE are now documented in various studies and documentaries, including the one below: