A family is suing Pop Warner football for what they consider to be a passive role in the death of 25-year-old Joseph Chernach.
According to The New York Times, Chernach was a young man whose mental state changed dramatically during his twenties. He dropped out of college, became depressive, and began struggling with social situations, often using alcohol to ease the discomfort. At one point, he would only come out of his bedroom at night.
After his suicide, the family sent his brain to a laboratory for study. What they found was an advanced case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the same condition found in many recently deceased NFL veterans.
"Really, it’s the worst example of this in someone this young," said the doctor performing the analysis to the NYT.
Chernach has almost a prototypical background for someone who would suffer from CTE. He played football all the way through high school, at certain points playing both linebacker and running back -- both high-impact positions. He would go entire games playing every single snap.
Chernach was also a pole vaulter and wrestler, both of which could have contributed to CTE through concussive or sub-concussive hits.
Now, his family is suing Pop Warner for its negligence in failing to warn players about known dangers related to head trauma. A 27-page complaint filed with the course said the league "knew or should have known" that football put children at risk of head injuries.
Instead, coaches were improperly trained to handle head injuries, the helmets were not as protective as they could have been, and players were not taught how to wear their helmets.
Additionally, Pop Warner was not quick enough to adopt established concussion protocols encouraged by medical experts, according to the lawsuit.
Chernach's case will add fuel to the fire that youth football poses a serious threat to the well-being of its participants. According to the NYT, the young man had no history of concussions. But as evidence continues to point toward sub-concussive hits creating an increased risk of brain damage, it seems very possible that Chernach's brain injuries could have happened without sustaining a concussion.
Chernach's family is seeking $5 million in damages.