Carroll County's first female high school football player, who received a ruptured pancreas during her first scrimmage three years ago, has filed a $1.5 million lawsuit against the school board.
Tawana Hammond claimed that county school officials failed to warn her of the potential for serious injuries in high school football.
Had Miss Hammond or her mother known of the considerable dangers of the game, she wouldn't have joined the football team at Francis Scott Key High School, said the lawsuit filed by the young woman, now 19 and residing in Baltimore, and her mother, Peggy Hammond.
"How can an individual make an informed decision if they're not aware of how dangerous high school football can be," said the Hammonds' attorney, Daniel H. Green. Mr. Green said the consent forms to participate on county school teams do not include warnings about the risks of serious injuries to students.
State law does not require school sports departments to provide parents and students with information about the hazards of sports activities. Some jurisdictions include warnings on consent forms, but the practice varies from county to county, depending on local school board policy, Mr. Green said.
Miss Hammond was injured Aug. 25, 1989, during a practice game between Key and Anne Arundel County's Brooklyn Park High School.
A fullback and safety for the Eagles, Miss Hammond was tackled by an opposing player. She fell on the knees or feet of another player, rupturing her pancreas, Mr. Green said.
In surgery the next day, doctors removed half of her pancreas and spleen. Miss Hammond spent four months recovering at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center, Mr. Green said.
Miss Hammond was a school track star, nicknamed "Turbo" for her speed.
She had hoped to continue with competitive athletics and planned to enter the military, Mr. Green said. But her injuries prevented her from pursuing her career goal, her lawyer said.
The lawsuit also alleges negligence on the part of Miss Hammond's coach, Michael Coons, who had called the injury "a freak accident."
Two weeks before Miss Hammond's injury, Mr. Coons told her mother that the premium on the insurance policy covering team members could be paid Aug. 25, after the game. Miss Hammond's mother paid the premium on the agreed-upon date, the same day as her daughter's injury.
But the insurance carrier refused to pay Miss Hammond's medical expenses, which were in excess of $100,000, because the premium was paid after the start of team practice, the lawsuit states.
Most of the medical bills were paid by Medicaid.
School officials declined to comment on the suit, because they had not seen it.
At the time of the injury, Edward F. Sparks, executive secretary of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association, the governing body of public high school athletics, said the policy of allowing girls on football teams would not be reconsidered because of injuries to girls playing sports traditionally played by boys. He said that all possible precautions are taken to make sure athletics are safe.