Catholic University Law Review


Concussions and their long term effects resulting from football collisions have recently entered the forefront of social debate. Movies like Concussion as well as high-profile lawsuits due to post-concussion health effects have casted a spotlight on brain injuries at the collegiate and professional level. However, this debate has equal application in youth sports—recent studies show that sports-related concussions at the elementary, middle, and high school levels are equally concerning.

Youth sports are safer when fewer athletes suffer from sports-related concussions. But litigation is not the best avenue to make youth sports safer. Youth sports can be improved by: 1) primary prevention efforts; 2) education and training; 3) continuous research; 4) development of better protective equipment; and 5) increased advocacy for greater safety across all youth sports. States should look at their own youth sports concussion laws to see where improvements can be made.

This Article addresses whether parents and guardians should let their children play youth sports due to concussion risks. Part I discusses different perspectives on the pros, barriers, and cons of youth participating in sports, the participation rates in youth sports, and the impact that concussion lawsuits and movies like Concussion have had on those participation rates. Part II provides statistics on the rates of concussions in youth sports including variances based on gender and type of sport. Part III describes various concussion lawsuits filed within the previous seven years. Additionally, this Part highlights state laws on youth sports-related concussions. Part IV summarizes and provides a comprehensive analysis of the Pop Warner Settlement in March 2016, including the potential impact of the settlement on youth sports organizations. Finally, this Article concludes by proposing suggestions to youth athletes, parents, guardians, coaches, youth leagues, medical professionals, and legislatures to make youth sports safer and to help youth athletes successfully return to learn and to play should they sustain a sports-related concussion.