Ex-footballer seeks $75,000, accuses Baylor of traumatic brain injury

Former midfielder Eva Mitchell has filed a claim for neurological damage she claims she suffered while a member of the football team. Photo courtesy of Baylor Athletics

By Marquis Cooley | sports editor

Former Baylor University football player Eva Mitchell filed a civil lawsuit and request for a jury trial against Baylor University on Thursday. The University of Kentucky midfielder transfer alleges she suffered traumatic brain injury after being forced to participate in dangerous heading drills during practice.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Waco by attorneys Robert Stem and Jason Luckasevic and states Mitchell is seeking a minimum of $75,000 for neurological damage she allegedly suffered while a member of the Baylor’s women’s soccer team, spanning the spring semester of 2019 through the fall of 2020, which has kept it operating unaided for the past 18 months. He also claims that she may never fully recover from her injuries.

According to the lawsuit, Baylor knew about the unsafe practices and the increased risk of acute and chronic brain injury they presented, but failed to protect its athletes and prevent the injuries suffered by Mitchell, which forced it to take a vacation from school. The injuries listed in the lawsuit include persistent and debilitating dizziness, post-concussion syndrome, persistent postural perception dizziness, central vestibular disorder, dysautonomia, depression and anxiety.

Baylor spokeswoman Lori Fogleman said in a statement to Lariat that “it is difficult to respond to a lawsuit that has not been shared with the University.”

“Baylor is unequivocally committed to providing our student-athletes with the latest in safe and effective sports medicine training and care,” Fogleman said. “While our thoughts and prayers continue to be with this former student-athlete, we look forward to the opportunity to rebut these allegations in a respectful manner and in an appropriate legal venue.”

The lawsuit accuses former head coach Paul Jobson of being ‘an aggressive trainer who subjected the women on the soccer team to repetitive, brutal, dangerous and unnecessary head drills during training’, resulting in the injuries by Mitchell.

“Heading puts a lot of pressure on the player’s head and neck and increases the risk of players, like Eva Mitchell, sustaining head and neck injuries, including but not limited to strains, concussions and whiplash,” the court claims said.

Jobson resigned Nov. 16, 2021 after 14 seasons with the program, including the last nine as head coach, saying “God was calling him to something new.”

“Coach Jobson’s resignation was unrelated to the allegations made in this lawsuit,” Fogleman said.

An example of a dangerous practice described in the lawsuit comes from a practice on a cold day in February 2019, during which Jobson and his team allegedly “shot superinflated footballs from a mechanical device with a speed increased to around 70 yards, and players had to “head” the ball.

The lawsuit claims Baylor was the only women’s soccer program in the country to use this drill along with others in which coaches repeatedly tossed overinflated balls across the width of the field and required the girls to advance the ball as far as they could. possible by using their heads. He also claims that the machine used by the coaching staff was not intended to shoot balls repeatedly over the heads of players, nor was it intended to be spun at high speed and use super-inflated balls to perform en – repeated headers.

According to the lawsuit, Mitchell felt like “his brain had been shattered” after taking the first lead during the drill, but had to do an additional “seven to eight”. He also claims that after practice, most of the women complained of exercise pain, and that Mitchell reported to a team athletic trainer, Kristin Bartiss, about her headaches and concussion symptoms.

The lawsuit claims that Mitchell was diagnosed with a concussion as a result of the exercise and that her father, Doug Mitchell, spoke with Bartiss about his daughter’s injuries and she indicated that Mitchell’s concussion was likely caused by his weak neck, as well as the coach using overinflated balls. too hard of an even more cold-hardened pitching machine.

According to the lawsuit, in August 2020, in preparation for the upcoming season, Jobson and staff allegedly continued “unnecessary, aggressive and repetitive head drills.” He also reports that Mitchell “felt threatened to participate” because Jobson pulled her from a game the previous season after “failing to ‘direct’ a line shot during a game.”

The lawsuit claims Mitchell suffered his second diagnosed concussion while training over a three-day period of practices that involved “continuous and repetitive punting and machine ball head drills as previously described with balls. overinflated, pulled long distance with extreme speed and force. He also claims that as a result of the concussion, Mitchell suffered “significant injury, pain and suffering, which she continues to suffer today.”

“Mrs. Mitchell’s injuries were so severe since her second concussion that she was diagnosed with difficulty walking around her home and needs full-time assistance from her parents to help with her life activities. daily,” the lawsuit alleges. “Mrs. Mitchell continues to receive treatment for her injuries, and it is unknown if she will ever make a neurological recovery from the concussion she suffered in August 2020.”