Former Bama Baseball Pitcher Sues Coach Brad Bohannon and Others for Ignoring Injury
A former pitcher for the Alabama Crimson Tide has sued head coach Brad Bohannon and two other members of the coaching staff for allegedly ignoring an injury he sustained while training in 2019.
Blake Bennett and his attorneys said in a press release that the pitcher broke a rib during mandatory strength training that summer, which he claims led to a condition called thoracic outlet syndrome. TOS occurs when blood vessels or nerves between the collarbone and first rib are compressed and Bennett said it caused numbness in his arm and hand,
"Bennett says from the first day of practice he could not throw the ball with any control because of numbness and pain in his arm and fingers," representatives said in a press release. "From July until November, Blake repeatedly told the coaches and trainer there was something wrong with his arm. Rather than providing medical care as mandated by University policy, the coaches decided the problem was in Bennett's head."
Bennett said his injury was written off as "the yips," a common name in athletics for bad performance caused by anxiety or nervousness. He claims he was made to keep pitching in training and instructed not to talk to his family about the injury.
In the lawsuit, Bennett said he was sent to a UA psychologist six times, who continued to confirm the problem was not mental. Bennett said he was not seen by a physician until November 2019 and underwent surgery with a private vascular surgeon in March 2020.
Bennett left the team in May 2020 and transferred to Pensacola State. He did not see any playing time with the Tide.
In his lawsuit, Bennett said he left Bama after Coach Bohannon called him to say he was not going to renew Bennett's scholarship because "every time I would see you pitch, I would have flashbacks of last year and it would be too hard to put you in a game."
"Bennett claims the stress, anxiety and embarrassment he suffered from five months of throwing out of control, while in pain, in front of coaches and teammates and then being dismissed from the team while he was recovering from the injury has caused irreparable harm and left him disillusioned with baseball," the Friday statement reads.
The pitcher filed a three-count lawsuit accusing Bohannon, trainer Sean Stryker and pitching coach Jason Jackson of negligence, wantonness and breach of agreement.
Although the Bennetts drew media attention to the case Friday, it was originally filed last September and has been progressing since then.
"I am not suing the University of Alabama or AD Greg Byrne," Bennett said in a statement. "They have policies in place to protect student-athletes. Unfortunately, in my case, the coaches and trainers ignored those policies. I was told not to tell my parents. They said they would fix me. I believed them. Only after Coach Bohannon finally called my father in November and my father demanded I get proper medical treatment was I finally proven right. I knew it was not 'in my head.'"
Bennett's father, Jonathan Bennett, said the facts of the lawsuit are ironclad.
"We trusted Coach Bohannon to take care of our son. It is infuriating to us that he would so arrogantly ignore University policies in place to protect injured athletes," he said. "He diagnosed our son with a mental illness rather than send him to a doctor. Bohannon waited five months to finally call me and tell me 'Blake probably will never pitch again; he has the yips.'"
The elder Bennett continued and said other parents have the right to know how Blake was allegedly treated.
"Every parent thinking of sending their son to play for Bohannon needs to know what he, Jackson and Stryker did to Blake," he said. "They need to be held accountable."
Attorneys for Bohannon, Jackson and Stryker filed a motion last month to have the lawsuit dismissed because as agents of the state, the three are legally immune from suit.
The motion to dismiss will be heard by Judge James Roberts in June.