When Dodgeball Gets Rough, Should Kids Be Charged For Injuries?
Several recent incidents of schoolyard game injuries have escalated, involving parents, police, and even assault charges.
Accidents are a natural part of childhood, especially when kids go a little overboard in a game like dodgeball. But sometimes, the stakes of an incident are high enough to escalate a schoolyard sport into a situation with parents or even police and courts involved.
That's what happened in a recent Michigan court case: a ten-year-old boy was charged with assault from a game of tips (a ball game similar to dodgeball but where balls are thrown into the air) after throwing a ball that hit a classmate, giving this boy a concussion. The charges in this case were dropped, but it's not the only case where a ball thrown at another kid got authorities involved.
After one particularly injurious game of dodgeball in March 2019, parents of the young teens involved in the accident are disagreeing over medical costs, according to a viral r/Parenting post on Reddit. A mom whose handle is Webezo took to the social media site to explain that her 13-year-old accidentally knocked out his 10-year-old friend's tooth while playing the game in the neighborhood.
"We live directly across the street from a park and open field," the mother explained. "On Saturday my 13-year-old and 10-year-old were at the park while I was out shopping. My husband and older two were home but obviously not expected to watch a 13- and 10-year-old."
She said that the teen and some of his friends decided to play a game of dodgeball, gathering various balls in order to do so. "My son picked up a heavier ball that was picked out by another kid and threw it," she wrote. "It ended up hitting one of the boys in the mouth and knocked out his front tooth. The kids stopped and found the tooth. The boy who was hit went home and told his mom what happened."
The mom explained that the other mother was "hoping that the tooth reattaches naturally but won't know for another few weeks. If it doesn't then he is going to need a dental implant, which can cost a lot of money since they don't have dental insurance. I feel awful, I really do, but I don't think it's fair that we have to pay. He was playing in the game as well and the ball had been thrown multiple times. For me it's simply a case of an unlucky shot."
Her question for the internet: "Are we the assholes? Should we have to pay for this?"
She later updated the post, writing, "His mom wants us to cover the entire cost. I am willing to cover half because I do feel awful about what happened. She doesn't want half."
The post has wracked up 636 comments since being published on Monday, March 11.
"You should consult a lawyer before giving them any money," one commenter recommended. "Paying a smaller amount (say to cover a regular dental appointment) right now might open the door to make you liable for the total cost of the implant. Also call your homeowners' insurance. They may provide a lawyer and cover your costs in this matter."
However, a dentist noted that an implant is likely out of the question, writing, "No one is placing an implant in a 14 yr old. They’re still growing. That knocked out tooth needs to stay for as long as possible without damaging other teeth till he’s an adult and his dentition and head stops growing. No one should be placing a dental implant on a growing teen. If it completely avulsed then it’s going to need a root canal and splinting to the other teeth for stabilization. Again, I haven’t seen the kid. I’m not positive. But if it completely came out, that’s usually what follows."
Other parents weighed in on how they'd feel if they were in this mom's position. "My kid has been hurt playing with other kids, all the kids I know have," one commenter shared. "If I tried to get someone else to pay for it, no one would ever play with my kid again, their parents wouldn’t let them. I definitely don’t want that!"
Another said, "If my child got hurt like this, I am sorry, but having the parent of the child that threw the ball pay his/our dental bill.... is absolutely INSANE... if my child breaks his arm running on the grass at school, with teachers around, should I sue the teachers or the school? NEITHER BECAUSE AS IS THIS CASE, that would be ABSOLUTELY INSANITY."
A fellow mom pointed out that kids—and their parents—need to accept the risks of games like dodgeball, writing, "I think everyone goes into the game knowing the risks. Kids get hurt when they play rough games, but they are kids that’s what they should be doing. They know they are taking a risk with no insurance and kids. I don’t think your [stet] responsible at all, but at the very most, I would settle for half."
Clearly, the conflict has fellow parents divided and some torn about how they would handle the situation if they were in this mom's position. Here's hoping the parents are able to agree on a solution that feels fair to everyone involved.