Searing Concussion Claim Against|Texas High School Football Coach

     AUSTIN (CN) – A high school football coach and school district showed “no concern” for a player who suffered so many concussions he is permanently disabled at age 20, the man claims in Federal Court.
     Blake Allen Ripple sued Marble Falls Independent School District and Cord Woerner, his former head football coach and athletic director at Marble Falls High.
     Ripple says he is so disabled he cannot even go to a rehab center “due to constant vomiting.”
     Marble Falls is about 45 miles northwest of Austin.
     “At one time Ripple was a National Honor Society Student and ‘Academic All-District,'” the complaint states. “Now he is unable to live independently, let alone go to college. At one time was one of the highest rated linemen in the Central Texas area and was receiving interest for scholarships from a number of Division I colleges.”
     Ripple says he suffered his first head injuries during helmet-on-helmet contact in an October 2009 game during his junior year.
     “Immediately after the injury, plaintiff was unable to remember what happened, was unsteady on his feet, staggered, and complained of nausea, dizziness, and a severe headache,” the complaint states. “Plaintiff’s trainer briefly talked to plaintiff on the sidelines after the injury, but he failed to render plaintiff aide and did not continue to observe plaintiff.”
     When Ripple’s parents expressed concern after the game, the trainer told them he would be fine after a shower, Ripple says. He says his parents took him to a hospital, and neither Woerner nor the trainer wanted to accompany them.
     “Since the injury on October 23, 2009, plaintiff frequently complained of headaches and an upset stomach,” the complaint states. “Plaintiff also experienced episodes where his right side shakes involuntarily, like a tremor.”
     Ripple says his doctor asked to inspect the helmet Ripple was wearing in the game, but Woerner “declared that it would be a UIL violation to take the helmet off campus. Plaintiff was forced to leave his helmet at the school. Plaintiff’s helmet has since disappeared.”
     After being involved in a violent rollover auto collision two months later, Ripple says, a CAT scan revealed five nodules in his thyroid, resulting in surgery, blackouts and more severe headaches. Ripple says his parents tried to explain his medical issues to Woerner before practice began the next August.
     “Coach Woerner told plaintiff that if plaintiff could not perform at 110%, that he did not want plaintiff on the team,” the complaint states.
     “Woerner continued to punish plaintiff with excessive physical exercises and drills in order to force him to play for the team. …
     “On one occasion at practice, Coach Woerner forced plaintiff to run so hard that that evening plaintiff started to bleed from his ears and nose. Plaintiff’s parents took plaintiff to the emergency room, where they were told that plaintiff was severely dehydrated. Plaintiff’s parents again informed Coach Woerner of plaintiff’s medical limitations and that plaintiff’s doctors did not believe that Plaintiff would be ready to play again until midseason.
     “Around this time, plaintiff’s parents had been complaining and corresponding with the Administration Office at plaintiff’s school. The Administration Office suggested that plaintiff’s parents just ‘relax’ to avoid any retaliation against plaintiff.
     “Despite Coach Woerner’s receiving frequent reminders of plaintiff’s medical condition and diminished physical abilities, Coach Woerner continued to punish plaintiff with excessive physical exercises and drills in order to force him to play for the team. In fact, he put plaintiff on the field at the teams’ second scrimmage, where he again experienced injuries,” the complaint states.
     Ripple says he became so disabled he was placed on homebound educational services.
     He claims that at around this time he began receiving letters from Division I colleges recruiting him, but Woerner withheld the letters from him until summer training began.
     Ripple claims that Woerner admitted he had released confidential medical information about him to scouts without his or his parents’ permission.
     Through his senior year, Ripple says, he continued to suffer “headaches, an upset stomach, vertigo, and loss of sensation on the left side of his body. Yet, plaintiff spent a lot of time on the field and would at times play offense. Plaintiff’s team was believed to be able to make it to the playoffs, Coach Woerner put an excessive amount of pressure upon plaintiff to both practice and play. Plaintiff believed he would be punished by Coach Woerner if he did not practice or play.
     “Plaintiff recalls numerous times where he would come off of the field and tell his coaches or trainers that he had a headache. Plaintiff was told not to let his team down and to get back out on the field. Plaintiff knew that if he did not continue playing, that there would be retaliation against him at school and in the community.”
     Ripple claims that at least three physicians believe he suffered from 30 to 40 concussions and sub-concussive hits while playing, and advised him to apply for disability benefits.
     He says he is unable to attend a residential treatment center because of his constant vomiting: “Plaintiff applied to Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (‘DARS’) so that he could attend CORE Health. However, due to constant vomiting, plaintiff is currently unable to attend CORE,” the complaint states.
     “In short, the School District has covered up the facts surrounding plaintiff’s injuries; it has refused to investigate or appropriately respond to the report of a serious injury; it has retaliated against an injured child, it has branded his family as a problem for the School District; and it has refused to alter its educational services in any meaningful way to accommodate the injury that Coach Woerner and other members of the football program caused,” the complaint states.
     Ripple seeks actual and punitive damages for violations of the Fourth Amendment, the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Texas Education Code.
     He is represented by Martin Cirkiel of Round Rock.

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