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Trial Starts In Head Injury Lawsuit

Aired 1/16/12 on KPBS News.

The San Marcos school district is being sued by a former football player who suffered permanent disability from a head injury.

A former high school football player is suing the San Marcos school district over a head injury that left him severely disabled. The long-delayed trial is expected to begin tomorrow.

Senior Scott Eveland walked off the field during a football game in 2007 and collapsed on the sideline. Witnesses in the case are expected to say Eveland told the team’s trainer before the game that he had a headache from a previous hit, but he played anyway.

Mike Patterson is a Seattle-based attorney who speaks nationally about the growing body of state laws like one passed in California last year that are meant to prevent injuries like Eveland’s. He said they provide new guidelines for how to treat kids suspected of having head injuries.

“They are not to return to the practice or playing field until such time as they’ve been fully evaluated by a physician who has the necessary expertise in head injuries and cleared out for that purpose," Patterson said. "So, if that’s followed, I would think that the number of claims are going to drop.”

The new California law doesn’t let school athletes suspected of having a head injury play again until cleared by a doctor.

“Yes, it is a collision sport. But there are things that we can do, in so far as the standard of care is concerned, to minimize these types of head injuries by taking extra special precautions to make sure that somebody is not impacted a second, third or multiple times,” Patterson said.

A second head trauma before someone has recovered from a concussion increases the likelihood of permanent brain damage.

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