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Injuries are a reality of playing sports. But, as much as possible, clubs, coaches, and schools are responsible for minimizing injury risks, especially to younger athletes. And coaches especially have to be properly trained in order to avoid risky training drills and spot risks as they arise.
That training allegedly did not happen in Spackenkill, New York, where a high school softball player sustained serious brain injuries after being hit in the head with a metal bat during a drill. Four years later, a jury awarded her and her father $1.1 million for her injuries.
As reported by the Poughkeepsie Journal, Coach David Maffei moved the team's practice indoors at Nassau Elementary School due to inclement weather. The team was participating in soft-toss drills, and Emily McGinley was tossing a ball up for a teammate to swing at. Two other players were involved in the same drill behind her, only too closely.
McGinley, who was not wearing a helmet, was struck in the head by a metal bat. According to her lawsuit, McGinley lost consciousness, was initially diagnosed with a concussion, and later suffered brain-injury symptoms, including Post Trauma Vision Syndrome, an inability of the brain to properly process information from the eyes.
McGinley's attorneys argued that the coach was not qualified, the school district did not provide or require any training of coaches, had no rules in place for setting up safe practice drills, and did not have policies in place regarding the coach-to-student ratio when a coach moves a practice indoors. A Dutchess County jury agreed, finding in her favor after a 10-day trial.
Spackenkill Superintendent Mark Villanti said the school district had implemented changes to prevent similar accidents in the future. "At this point, we feel badly for the student-athlete and her family, and we do not plan to engage in a public debate over the facts as they are presented in this press release," Villanti told the Journal. "We have confidence in our athletic department and regret that this accident took place."