Texans display their obsession with football Fridays during the fall with “Friday Night Lights” – the nickname for the high school games that take place across the state. The games are a gathering place for fans to show school spirit for beloved local teams. But a husband and wife who used to live, eat and breathe high school football are now speaking out against the sport after their son suffered a severe concussion.
Troy and Donna Yarbrough are suing the Santa Fe Independent School District, but they’re taking a different approach compared to concussion lawsuits from the past. Gabrielle Banks, federal court reporter for the Houston Chronicle, says the Yarbrough’s son, C.Y., suffers from chronic headaches and irritability because of his concussion at age 15, two years ago.
“He was on the junior-varsity offensive line,” Banks says. “They would go head-to-head twice a day against the varsity [team]. The coach would say the louder the crash the better, basically, according to the lawsuit.”
The Yarbroughs say their son is not the same kid anymore. They are suing the school district, claiming their child has a right not to suffer harm from concussions, and potential brain damage from contact sports.
“The coaches are supposed to teach how to tackle properly, not to lead with the crown of your head,” Banks says. “This is enforced by referees in games, but this was practice. It’s really on the coaches during practice to monitor these types of collisions.”
There is an increasing number of concussion lawsuits concerning high school football players nationwide, but this is the first in Texas.
“This is a very novel approach,” Banks says. “This is not the typical negligence case. My reporting showed there were about 13 or 14 states that have had cases [and] many of them have ended in settlements.”
Banks says school district administrators can claim they aren’t responsible because kids who participate in contact sports know that the sports pose some risk of injury.
“I think it’s a tough battle,” Banks says. “I think the schools have this sovereign immunity that they can claim. It’s a tricky case to pull off. I don’t know if the tide is turning. … I think it’s sort of a time where things are changing and being challenged.”’
Written by Brooke Vincent.