Parents Sue Youth Football League for Son’s Death

Joseph Chernach, committed suicide in 2012 at the age of 25 as a result of depression caused by chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).  He played organized tackle football in a Wisconsin-Michigan Pop Warner football league from 1997 to 2000.

Debra Pyka, Joseph’s mother, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Pop Warner, the largest youth football organization in the United States. She claims that Pop Warner was negligent in protecting her son from the dangers of head trauma.  Pyka’s lawsuit came just eight days after researchers released a study that found NFL retirees who began playing tackle football before they turned 12 were at increased risk of developing cognitive problems.

“Other parents out there should know what happened to my son and be aware of all the dangers and symptoms,” Debra Pyka told NBC News. “I don’t want to see this happen to anyone else’s child.”

Before his death, Chernach was suffering from the disease Dementia Pugilistica, which is associated with CTE. He was also suffering from Concussion Syndrome which included symptoms such as memory loss, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression and dementia.

In a statement to BuzzFeed News, Pyka’s lawyer Gordon Johnson, said “Children should not be exposed to the dangers of youth football, but if parents do choose to allow their children to play the game, there should be greater care taken to protect the most vulnerable amongst us.”

The Chernach family is seeking $5 million in damages.

Complaint Chernach v. Pop Warner and Lexington Insurance

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Michael Slater, K.C.
Michael Slater K.C. is the founding partner of Slater Vecchio. The majority of his practice is confined to traumatic brain injury (TBI) and spinal cord injury cases.