Rugby concussions pose legal worries

Workplace and highway accidents are not the only cause of catastrophic injuries in Ohio. Like professional football, college rugby has sparked concerns about concussions. Kenyon College in Gambier indefinitely suspended its men and women's rugby team as it reviews the program and head injury risks.

Six college administrators intend to address the number of concussions suffered by rugby players. The administrators said that these teams suffer a disproportionate number of concussions, compared to other athletics. Rugby teams already suffered nine concussions this fall. Other varsity sports had only five of these injuries.

Potential legal liability for these injuries also led to this action. The college's insurance company revised its club sports guidelines over the summer and addressed concussion management. Its guidelines classify rugby as a very high-risk club sport, contain recommendations for a series of safety precautions, such as licensed instructors or coaches, and guaranteed access to athletic trainers. The insurance company does not require these measures, but recommend them as best practices.

The college's rugby teams do not have these measures. A certified athletic trainer attends all the home matches, but their presence is not guaranteed at away contests. The college's manager of business services apprised its officials of these guidelines in early October. He said that disregarding these guidelines could pose additional legal liability, if a player suffered a catastrophic injury.

In late September, the Kenyon's overseer for club sports recommend that the rugby team hire a coach. However, students did not support this and objected to supervision from non-students. Officials could not estimate the length of their review process. Students who continue to practice during this suspension will have to go through a student conduct review process for the failure to comply with a college official.

Colleges, schools and other organizations may be liable for brain injury because of negligence or failing to take appropriate precautions. An attorney can help victims and their families obtain compensation for these injuries.

Source: Kenyon Collegian, "College suspends rugby indefinitely due to concussions," Emily Birnbaum, Oct. 18, 2017

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