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Parents of Deceased H.S. Football Player File Notice of Claim Against School

The parents of a 16-year-old who died this past fall from football-related brain trauma have filed a notice of claim against his upstate New York school, reports The Buffalo News.

Damon W. Janes, a running back for the combined Brocton Central School/Westfield Academy and Central School football team, lost consciousness on the sideline after sustaining what hospital officials later described as a helmet-to-helmet hit in the second game of the season. After being carted off the field, he was transported to the Intensive Care Unit at Women and Children's Hospital in Buffalo, where he died three days later. A week after Janes' passing, the district canceled the rest of its football season.

According to a report from The Upstate Football Weekly, that wasn't the first head trauma Janes endured while playing last year. During the season-opening game, Janes and another player collided, slamming their helmets together "forehead-to-forehead." The next week, Janes got "seriously popped" in the first quarter, said one of his teammates to the New York Daily News. The running back shook off the injury, however, never leaving the game.

In the third quarter of that game, after enduring another serious hit, Janes "got up, wobbly, and made his way off the field," per the Daily News. Soon thereafter, his eyes reportedly rolled back as he fell unconscious.

Janes' parents, Dean Janes and Penny L. Gilbert, allege in the notice of claim that the school failed to monitor their son "between games when it was apparent he had suffered an injury," per the Buffalo News. They also suggest that Westfield failed to properly recondition its helmets and failed to provide Janes with a proper-fitting helmet. Several Brocton/Westfield players told the Daily News that the team's helmets are eight or nine years old.

A notice of claim isn't a lawsuit. It signals an intent to sue, and, per New York law, a notice of claim must be filed before filing a civil lawsuit against the state, a local government, or most government agencies. A lawsuit must be filed no later than one year and 90 days after the date of the accident, which, in Janes' parents' case, gives them until roughly the end of 2014 to file.

The parents have not made Janes' official cause of death public. However, assuming he did endure a severe helmet-to-helmet hit in the first game of the season, second-impact syndrome could be the culprit. That occurs when a student-athlete whose brain hasn't fully healed from an initial head trauma experiences a second trauma. That latter impact can cause fatal swelling in the brain.

According to a study presented last year at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies, more than 91 percent of the 120 high school football players surveyed said they felt it was OK for someone to stay in a game after suffering a concussion. Fifty-three percent replied that they would "always or sometimes continue to play with a headache sustained from an injury."

Janes' death serves as the counter-argument to that warrior mentality. There's simply too much uncertainty when it comes to brain injuries to take that risk.

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