Twenty-year-old Blake Ripple is 6-feet, 5-inches tall, weighs about 300 pounds and has the body to compete on the gridiron.
He’s not worried about his body, but he is worried about the headaches, dizziness and vomiting. They’re symptoms the Ripple family says are a direct result of at least 30 concussions suffered playing high school football.
"As a football player, as a man, we're taught to walk it off. You know be a man about it. Don't show fear. Don't show pain,” Ripple said. "[But] brain injuries and concussions are permanent."
The Ripple family filed a lawsuit claiming the Marble Falls school district failed to properly train the football coaching staff. The suit also accuses then-Head Coach Cord Woerner of negligence for allowing Ripple to continue to play after injury.
According to the family, the coach was aware of a documented closed-head injury the lineman sustained, following an October 2009 game.
"When we came back from Mayo clinic, right when two-a-days were starting, we told Coach Woerner what was going on, and Cord's response to Blake and myself was if Blake couldn't give 110 percent, he didn't want Blake on his team," mother Lori Ripple said.
The family says they buckled to the coach’s pressure and agreed to let their injured son suit back up.
Medical experts like neurosurgeon Dr. Mark Burnett say brain science is the final frontier in medicine. He says never gamble on a head injury.
"Better safe than sorry, you have your whole life in front of you. Your brain is a little more important than catching a football," he said. "What we are now finding is we're now able to develop more sophisticated tools to test patients, and we're able to see very subtle injuries that stay with patients."
Ripple is young man willing to take responsibility for his decisions, he says he just wants the school district and coach to bear the financial blow as well.
The Ripples say Blake’s cognitive ability is diminishing. They say constant pain and lack of concentration do not allow him to live on his own or go to college.
Statement from Marble Falls ISD regarding the lawsuit:
At this time the District has not been given official notification of a lawsuit by Mr. Ripple. Regardless of a potential lawsuit, Marble Falls ISD works diligently to provide a safe school and competitive athletic environment for all kids. The District, our teachers, and our coaches constantly review safety procedures to ensure the safest environment possible on our campuses and for our student athletes.
The Board of Trustees has been notified by me of a potential lawsuit, reports O’Connor. A potential lawsuit will not change the Board’s long-term practice of supporting on-going professional development for our teachers, coaches and trainers so they can continue to provide a safe environment for our students, student athletes and performers. We ask all community members not to pass judgment until the District is notified and a thorough due process investigation can be completed.