A 23-year-old former reserve offensive lineman at Washington State University has sued the university and former football coach Paul Wulff, alleging he suffered three concussions while participating in football activities, including “helmet-less practices,” the suit states.
Now, instead of playing in the NFL, or even graduating from college, Timothy Hodgdon suffers from symptoms of “concussive traumatic brain injury,” his attorneys said Friday. He lives with his mother in San Francisco, the same city where Wulff works as an offensive assistant for the NFL’s 49ers after being fired from WSU in November 2011.
Hodgdon had to drop out of WSU in 2011 after losing his scholarship and his ability to complete his academic studies due to his brain injury, the suit states. He suffers from short-term and long-term memory loss as a result of his concussions, Ann Deutscher of Kent, one of his attorneys, said Friday.
“Timothy suffered a permanent decrease in his ability to read and write at the speed and fluency that he did before his concussions,” the suit states. “Timothy’s academic capabilities dropped precipitously.”
Hodgdon’s lawsuit was filed Wednesday in Thurston County Superior Court. It names the state of Washington, the school, WSU athletics and Wulff as defendants.
Wulff could not be reached for comment. WSU’s executive director of university communications, Kathy Barnard, emailed a response to the lawsuit.
“We have not received the full details of the situation that has led to this particular suit,” Barnard wrote. “However, the health and safety of our student athletes is of paramount importance, and we take these matters very seriously.”
During a conference call Friday, Deutscher and an attorney consulting with her on the case, Kenneth Kagan of Seattle, detailed how Hodgdon’s life has spiraled from that of a heavily recruited all-state high school football player in California to a college dropout who now works as a bouncer. Hodgdon also recently made a visit to a rehabilitation hospital in Boston that specializes in traumatic brain injury, Deutscher said.
Deutscher said Hodgdon has had “very sophisticated” brain scans at the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston that show he has injuries consistent with traumatic brain injury.
Hodgdon has suffered severe migraines, inability to tolerate light or sound, nausea, loss of sleep, and inability to focus, the suit states.
WSU, former coach Wulff, and the athletic department are to blame for allowing him to participate in football practices, including “helmet-less practices,” despite knowing he had suffered repeated concussions, Duetscher and Kagan said.
Hodgdon had suffered two medically documented concussions before joining the WSU football program, according to the suit. Documentation shows that WSU trainers and doctors “knew about his history and allowed him to practice with no helmet on.”
Kagan said his research shows that under Wulff, WSU was the only college or, for that matter, pro football program that allowed its players to participate in “helmet-less practices,” at “50 percent speed” in full pads.
“Timothy recalls performing helmet-less practices at near 100 percent intensity, as was the culture and custom of the coaches and the team at all time relevant to these claims,” the suit states.Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5445 firstname.lastname@example.org