Federal Appeals Court: Water Polo Players have Rights: Will WWE Wrestlers Have Any?

A Federal Appeals Court ruled on November 28, 2018 that USA Water Polo owes a duty to athletes to set protocols for returning to play after suffering from a potential concussion. The ruling went in favor of a proposed class action brought on behalf of a youth water polo goalie who was sent back into a match after being dazed by a shot to the face.

When reading this brief account of the Water Polo case, think of the activities of professional wrestlers, who swore affidavits and filed claims documenting near routine injuries of the type described in this single youth player on a near daily basis spanning decades of WWE neglect, indifference in the face of actual WWE stated knowledge (on Monday Night Raw in 1995 to cite but one example) of the effects of Post Concussion Syndrome.

The water polo case brought by Alice Mayall, whose 16-year-old daughter allegedly suffered post-concussion syndrome, argued that USA Water Polo, the governing body for the sport, was liable for her injuries because it failed to establish proper concussion-management and return-to-play procedures for youth water polo players. According to the complaint, while playing goalie during a February 2014 tournament overseen by USA Water Polo, she was hit in the face by a hard shot that left her “dazed.”

After swimming over to her coach, who had no specialized training or qualifications to handle concussions and head injuries, she was sent back into the match and later played in subsequent tournament matches, suffering many more hits to the head that exacerbated her injury, the complaint alleged.

Afterward, the player suffered headaches, sleepiness and fatigue, and was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome (PCS) a month after the match. (WWE featured a storyline about Shawn Michaels Post Concussion Syndrome on a December 1995 Monday Night Raw!!!!! but WWE claims that they knew nothing about PCS until Chris Benoit Issues, which they actually also denied and fail to acknowledge to this day)

The court in ruling for the water polo players wrote:
“USA Water Polo thereby increased the risk of secondary concussions to players who improperly returned to play, a risk that USA Water Polo could eliminate through the implementation of concussion-management protocols already used by its national team.”

“These allegations, taken as true, demonstrate that USA Water Polo was well-aware of the severe risk of repeat concussions and of the need to implement a policy to remove players from play after suffering a head injury,” the opinion said. “USA Water Polo’s inaction in the face of substantial evidence of risk of harm, constitutes an extreme departure from the ordinary standard of conduct, and amounts to gross negligence under California law.”The case is Mayall v. USA Water Polo Inc., case number 16-56389, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

As astute readers of this blog will observe the numerous allegations made by WWE wrestlers about the dangerous working conditions, head injuries and so forth at WWE would tend support their claims. This “Gross Negligence” Water Polo ruling is one more precedent indicating that the Courts should to allow the wrestlers to hold WWE to account for its outrageous misconduct towards them.

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