Ex-Illinois soccer player joins those suing over concussions

AP News
|
Posted: Jun 08, 2015 10:50 PM

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — A former University of Illinois soccer player has joined the list of the school's athletes who have complained that they had to endure improper medical treatment and playing conditions.

Casey Conine in a lawsuit filed Monday in Champaign County Circuit Court said she was cleared to play in October 2014 after suffering a third concussion in two years at Illinois. The suit says Conine has suffered "injuries of a severe and permanent nature," including headaches and difficulties concentrating.

"Our theory of the case has a lot to do with the University of Illinois not following its own concussion protocol, and particularly not having a doctor involved in clearing her," said Conine's attorney, Joseph Siprut. He also is the co-counsel on a high-profile concussion lawsuit against the NCAA for which a judge is considering a proposed settlement.

The lawsuit names Athletic Director Mike Thomas, soccer coach Janet Rayfield, sports medicine director Paul Schmidt, trainer Brittany Scott and the school's Department of Intercollegiate Athletics.

University spokesman Kent Brown said school officials wouldn't comment on pending litigation.

Conine's lawsuit follows accusations by former football player Simon Cvijanovic and several former women's basketball players of improper medical treatment and hostile conditions created by coaches. The university has hired two other Chicago law firms to investigate those allegations, and lawsuits have been threatened by some of those players.

According to Conine's lawsuit, the Leslie, Michigan, native suffered two concussions diagnosed by team doctors in 2013. But during an October 2014 game against Northwestern she collided head-on with an opponent.

"She immediately collapsed to the ground and struggled to get up," noticeably stumbling once she did, but was not taken out of the game, according the lawsuit.

In the days after that game, she was diagnosed with another concussion.

The university's concussion protocol requires a team doctor to clear the player to return to play. But Conine claims she was allowed to play in two more games late that month without a doctor's approval.

On Oct. 22, a team doctor decided she needed to be held out of future games, and in December, the team decided she shouldn't play again, Conine claims. She was eventually removed from the team.

The lawsuit seeks at least $50,000 in damages, but Siprot said that's strictly a minimum figure placed in the lawsuit for legal reasons related to where it was filed. The actual figure sought will be larger, he said.