A former West Mifflin High School football player filed a lawsuit claiming the school district and governing bodies of high school athletics did not have proper concussion protocols in place and failed to adequately treat head injuries he got in practice despite having knowledge of the danger of concussions.
The suit was filed Wednesday in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court on behalf of Shane Skillpa, a 2012 graduate of West Mifflin. The PIAA, WPIAL and West Mifflin Area School District were named as defendants.
PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi and WPIAL executive director Tim O’Malley declined comment. District superintendent Daniel Castagna could not be reached.
The lawsuit states that in August 2009 while participating in football summer camp drills, Skillpa, then a sophomore, was hit, driven backward and fell, hitting the back of his head on the ground. The hit broke his helmet and the helmet of the other player, according to the complaint.
Skillpa was never evaluated by medical personnel and returned to practice 15 to 20 minutes later with a new helmet, the suit said. Two days later, after continuing to participate in practices and taking other blows to the head, he developed flu-like symptoms, later diagnosed as a concussion, according to the lawsuit.
In 2009, Tim Brennan was in his third season as West Mifflin’s coach, coming to the school after 15 seasons as coach at Bishop Kelly High School in Boise, Idaho. Brennan left West Mifflin after the 2009 season and returned to Idaho. He is now the coach at Bishop Kelly again.
Brennan said he was not aware of Skillpa’s suit. Skillpa was listed on West Mifflin’s 2009 roster as as a 5-foot-7, 145-pound sophomore receiver.
“I remember the name a little, but I don’t remember any incident where a kid got a serious concussion,” said Brennan.
The lawsuit said Skillpa has had various symptoms, including depression, anxiety and memory recall impairment. He was diagnosed in September 2016 with a traumatic brain injury that the suit contends he got while playing football in August 2009 but manifested years later. He has also been diagnosed with cognitive impairment, organic affective disorder and PTSD, all secondary to the traumatic brain injury.
The lawsuit requests compensatory losses and damages in excess of $35,000, attorneys fees and further relief, including punitive damages.
Staff writer Mike White contributed. Andrew Goldstein: firstname.lastname@example.org and 412-263-1352.