A jury has awarded a former Bedford (Iowa) High School football player nearly $1 million in a case involving the school’s response to his head injuries.
Kacey Strough, now 18, had a pre-existing medical condition known as a “cavernous malformation” — abnormally formed blood vessels in his brain — that bled after he suffered a head injury but was allowed to keep practicing and playing, said his attorney, Tom Slater.
The case is the most high-profile lawsuit in Iowa regarding an athlete suing a school in connection with head injuries since the state implemented a concussion and brain injury law in 2011.
Strough’s case first gained prominence when a lawsuit filed in 2013 included allegations that teammates repeatedly threw footballs at his head, bullying that aggravated his injury. Ultimately, though, the lawsuit was amended and the bullying claim was not addressed at trial.
Strough underwent surgery in November 2012 to remove a blood clot near the brainstem. He has permanent injuries and currently uses a wheelchair.
The case highlights the increasing attention nationwide to both school bullying and safety regarding concussions tied to playing football.
Strough was awarded more than $140,000 in past medical expenses, and $850,000 in additional damages for pain and suffering, loss of mind and body and loss of future earnings. There were no punitive damages, because jurors said that Schuelke did not show “willful and wanton disregard” for Strough’s rights or safety.
Chapter 280, Section 13 of the Iowa Code say that “if a student’s coach or contest official observes signs, symptoms, or behaviors consistent with a concussion or brain injury in an extracurricular interscholastic activity, the student shall be immediately removed from participation.”
The section also states: “A student who has been removed from participation shall not recommence such participation until the student has been evaluated by a licensed health care provider trained in the evaluation and management of concussions and other brain injuries and the student has received written clearance to return to participation from the health care provider.”
“Hopefully as this law finds its way into the system, school districts, nurses and coaches can get together and act in a more prompt way to get these problems addressed,” Slater said.
Attorney Gregory Barntsen, who represented the Bedford school district, was not immediately available for comment Monday night.