PITTSBURGH (CN) - A teen-ager claims his high school football coach sent him back into a game with traumatic brain injury after a concussion, despite complaints from teammates about his "incoherent condition." And when his injuries became so debilitating they affected his grades, the principal said he could fix that with a "shake of his magic wand," in an "overt" and "unethical" offer to change his grades, according to the federal complaint.
Zachary Alt, now 19, sued the Highlands School District, Highland High School Principal Thomas Shirey, Assistant Principal Walt Hanslik, head football coach Sam Albert, and athletic trainer Mike Russo.
Alt says Albert displayed "flagrant inaction" by failing to evaluate him after a particularly vicious helmet-to-helmet hit, which left him "clearly disoriented" and "aimlessly walk[ing]" the sidelines.
Alt says his teammates "immediately recognized that something was awry with the plaintiff," but Albert ordered him back into the game, issuing him a "violent instruction" to "blow up" the other team's middle linebacker: "Defendant Albert instructed the plaintiff to 'blow him up', referring to the type of violence with which he wanted plaintiff Alt to strike the opposition's middle linebacker," the complaint states.
"In delivering this order, defendant Albert personally observed the disorientated and confused disposition of the plaintiff, yet acted in deliberate indifference to the health, safety and welfare of the plaintiff by placing him back onto the field of play. ...
"This violent instruction from defendant Albert is the plaintiff's last memory of the game."
Alt, playing fullback, says that on the first offensive play after his initial injury, Albert sent him in to lead the blocking against the middle linebacker. He adds: "this type of blocking scheme usually leads to an explosive one-on-one collision between the fullback and the middle linebacker."
Unsurprisingly, Alt says, he was rocked again, but Albert left him in the game, with "deliberate indifference" to his health and safety.
"Plaintiff does not recollect the remainder of the game.
"However, based upon information later disclosed to the plaintiff by his teammates, plaintiff's condition worsened throughout the game and he was described to be acting in a 'drunken state'.
"In fear for plaintiff's health, safety and welfare, at least two of his teammates approached defendant Albert during the course of the game and advised him of plaintiff's incoherent condition. In response, defendant Albert did nothing.
"This deliberate indifference to alerts and/or communications between he and his
players regarding their health and the health of their teammates was a practice, custom or policy maintained by defendant Albert."
Alt says it is "unexplainable how a teammate was able to recognize the seriousness of plaintiff's injuries while defendant Russo, an athletic trainer, failed to do the same."
Alt says the professional incompetence did not end on the field. Albert's and Russ's initial post-game plan was "to require plaintiff Alt to ride the bus back to school with his team," the complaint states. Then they decided that Russo, the trainer, would take Alt home.
"Upon defendant Russo's arrival with the plaintiff to his home, defendant Russo joked that plaintiff was wandering all over the place and that he was acting funny.
"Defendant Russo then laughed as he explained that the plaintiff was repeating the same several comments during the entirety of the trip from the game to plaintiff's home.