For the first time, the National Collegiate Athletic Association has agreed to pay a significant amount of money and create more awareness of brain injuries as the result of a settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of Derek Sheely, a football player who suffered a fatal brain injury in 2011.
The former Northwest High School football captain Derek Sheely died in August 2011, at the age of 22, after a traumatic brain injury suffered at football practice while playing at Frostburg State University.
The wrongful death case was filed against the NCAA and Frostburg State University by Independence, KS-based attorney Ken McClain of Humphrey Farrington & McClain PC and Paul Anderson of The Klamann Law Firm PC. The lawsuit argued that concussion protocols weren't followed, making Sheely's death a preventable tragedy.
The case was filed in August 2013, and on the eve of trial, the parties agreed to a settlement. The settlement awards $1.2 million to The Derek Sheely Foundation and provides several other remedies aimed at increasing awareness and research about concussions.
In a statement released on FaceBook, Derek’s parents Ken and Kristin Sheely said, “In August 2011, our beloved son Derek Sheely suffered a fatal brain injury during football practice, and our lives have been forever devastated. We established the non-profit Derek Sheely Foundation to increase awareness and research into sports-related concussions in hopes of preventing other children from suffering Derek’s fate. This settlement will help the Derek Sheely Foundation achieve its goals. We wish to thank the brave players who stepped forward for Derek.”
"This is a landmark settlement not just because it is the first brain-injury case that the NCAA has agreed to pay a significant amount of money to resolve, but also because the stakeholders of football are now on notice that they have an obligation to protect the health and safety of the athletes, and if they fail to do so, there will be vast repercussions," McClain said in a release. "While we were eager to try this case to a jury, we were able to craft a settlement that will have a much greater impact than a verdict could have achieved in this case."
In addition to paying $1.2 million, Frostburg State agreed to retire Sheely's jersey — No. 40 — and display it on campus. The NCAA and Frostburg State agreed to sponsor and fund a symposium for coaches, trainers, sports medicine personnel, student-athletes, parents and others in honor of Sheely, focusing on the reduction of catastrophic risk to student-athletes.
Frostburg State agreed to hold a fundraiser on its campus no later than Aug. 1, 2017, to raise money for The Derek Sheely Foundation and to provide enough funding to enable the Derek Thompson Sheely Leadership Award to be a full-tuition scholarship for a minimum of 10 years and potentially longer. The NCAA and Frostburg State also agreed to make a research award toward a project dealing with catastrophic risk sometime before the end of 2018.
“We believe that Derek’s case has set an important precedent and helped shape the national dialog,” the Sheely’s Facebook statement said. “We also believe that more must be done to protect athletes, and we will continue to make this our mission.”
The Derek Sheely Foundation holds the annual Derek Sheely LEAD THE WAY Four Mile Run and One-mile Walk to raise funds to support concussion awareness each year in Germantown at Northwest High School where Derek was a captain of the 2006 Jaguars football team.