A former West Mifflin Area High School football player who suffered a concussion in 2009 is suing the school district, the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League and the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association.
Lawyers for Shane Skillpa, 23, said his helmet and the helmet of another student broke during a drill that required the boys to run headlong into each other. The incident occurred during a summer practice between Skillpa's freshman and sophomore years.
ESPN described the drill as “one part time-honored tradition, one part skill-building exercise, one part utterly insane, head-on car crash.”
Skillpa’s counsel maintains that he was sent back to practice after his concussion and that proper concussion protocols were not followed.
Pennsylvania’s youth sports concussion law did not take effect until three years after Skillpa’s injury, on July 1, 2012.
Attorneys at Jones Gregg Creehan and Gerace, the firm representing Skillpa, said he has suffered memory loss, anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression, insomnia, fatigue, light sensitivity and difficulties with spatial perception. They said many of these symptoms have appeared only recently.
“It’s resulted in new manifestations and new injuries in terms of brain trauma, PTSD and various other things, all of which also will lead to increased risk of Parkinson’s and frankly, early death from CTE and other causes,” said managing partner Richard Sandow.
CTE stands for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a progressive degenerative disease linked to repeated head trauma. The condition has been discovered in the brains of several professional football players post-mortem, including Junior Seau, Mike Webster, Terry Long and others.
Sandow said Skillpa is seeking damages but said they had not yet calculated a specific amount.
“The damages would include the cost of the medical treatments he’s going to have for the rest of his life as well as diminished life capacity (and) the effects of the injuries upon him,” Sandow said.
WPIAL declined to discuss the case. West Mifflin Area School District and PIAA did not immediately respond to requests for comment.