MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Pop Warner organization has settled a lawsuit brought by a Wisconsin woman who alleged her 25-year-old son’s suicide resulted from brain injuries he suffered while playing youth football, a Pop Warner spokesman said Wednesday.
Brian Heffron confirmed to The Associated Press that a settlement was reached but said he couldn’t discuss details.
Debra Pyka was seeking at least $5 million from Langhorne, Pennsylvania-based Pop Warner Little Scholars, the Pop Warner Foundation and their insurance company.
Her son, Joseph Chernach, hanged himself in Pyka’s shed in Hixton, Wis., in 2012. The federal lawsuit filed in Madison alleged Chernach suffered from a degenerative brain disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, and also had post-concussion syndrome. The suit alleged the conditions were caused by playing in a Pop Warner league from 1997-2000, beginning when he was 11.
The wrongful death lawsuit alleged Pop Warner never warned Chernach, other children or parents about the risks of playing tackle football, and that Pop Warner Football is an “ultrahazardous activity” that’s intrinsically dangerous to children.
Pyka and her attorney didn’t immediately reply to requests for comment.
In a statement, Pop Warner said “there is nothing more important than the safety of our players and since 2010, we have led the way in making the game of youth football a safer and better experience than ever before.”
The organization said it has established protocols and rule changes designed to improve coaching education, limit contact and require any player who suffers a potential head injury to be examined by a medical professional trained in concussions before returning to play.