Concussions in sports are becoming more and more common, but what are the main causes, and how can we prevent it from happening?
A concussion is the most common type of brain injury that affects people all across the country. Falls, accidents, violence, etc. can result in a blow to the head. Increasingly, sports have also become a common cause for concussions.
Each year there is an average of 3.8 million sports-related concussions sustained by athletes. Depending on the force of impact, these concussions can be mild or severe.
Recognizing Concussions in Sports
A concussion can temporarily damage the brain's regular functions. Balance, memory, coordination and speech are some of the aspects an injured person may struggle with. Concussions are usually mild (compared to other traumatic brain injuries) and the brain returns to its regular functions within a week or so.
However, if a person has suffered repeat concussions, there is a risk of adverse long-term consequences. The following symptoms may indicate a concussion:
- Difficulty with balance and coordination
- Dizziness (feeling "foggy")
- Fatigue or drowsiness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Change in sleep patterns
- Hypersensitivity to sound and light
- Memory difficulties
Most people who suffer concussions do not experience unconsciousness. This might make a person ignore the injury until much later. This is especially the case when physical symptoms (such as a bump or swelling) does not occur. The cognitive and behavioral symptoms listed above may not appear right away.
Since the recognition is not obvious, the symptoms and signs of concussions must be known to parents and coaches. This is especially important for young players and athletes as their brains are more vulnerable to slow recovery and permanent impairment.
Common Causes of Sports-Related Concussions
A sports-related concussion is caused when there is a violent shaking of the brain. A direct or indirect force may cause the brain to rock back and forth inside the skull. The following sports/activity risk the chance of a concussion:
- Hockey and ice hockey
- Horseback riding
Football is the leading cause of sports-related injuries. An average of 65 to 95 percent of all sport-related fatalities occurs due to football. It occurs due to on-field collisions, knockout punches and heading the ball. These incidents may cause seemingly mild concussions.
However, if these are not attended to, the concussions will risk the chance of a repeat or second-impact brain injury, which results in severe adverse consequences.
The presence of prolonged consequences has been found in most professional NFL players. Players risk contracting a progressive degenerative disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy. This disease is associated with depression, dementia, memory loss, etc. It occurs in players who have a history of repetitive hits to the head.
Players are also prone to degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's. One study found that a moderate head injury can double the risk of Alzheimer's. Severe brain injuries (such as concussions that knock the person out for 24 hours or more) can quadruple the risk of the disease.
Treatment of Concussions
If a concussion is suspected during a sport, the injured player must be rushed to the hospital. A doctor or physician will perform neurological tests and evaluate the condition of the player. They will then advise the appropriate treatment (depending on the severity of the concussion).
Concussions will usually heal by themselves in 7 to 10 days. Complete physical and mental rest will allow the brain to recover from the injury. Any work that requires any complex brain function must also be avoided.
The consequences of a concussion can last up to weeks or months. It is thus important to gradually return to normal activity. This slow and steady approach will ensure the symptoms disappear completely, with no chance of reappearing. The following approach is a 5-step progression in increasing physical activity:
- Light aerobic exercises
- Moderate physical activity
- Heavy (non-contact) activity
- Practice sessions (full contact)
- Return to regular play
Returning to play shortly after a concussion (or incomplete recovery) is highly dangerous. A second concussion, adding to your first, will cause the symptoms to worsen and take longer to heal. They may also result in permanent brain damage. It is essential to completely recover from a concussion instead of risking the chance of a repeat concussion.
Following recovery, the athlete should be retested for symptoms. A comparison with pre-injury test results is a good way to determine complete recovery. Further evaluation can decide whether the player can return to the sport.
Safety and Prevention
- Young athletes and players must be taught about the serious consequences of concussions. In order to avoid a break from the sport, they may downplay or ignore their symptoms. They must be made aware of the long-term consequences. Educational programs regarding concussions in sports are often organized by sports or medical organization. The players and their parents can benefit from attending these programs.
- Proper equipment is essential for aggressive contact sports. Helmets can help protect the head from injury provided it is well fitting and well maintained. They must also be worn consistently.
- As a coach or parent, it is also your responsibility to train young players to practice safe playing techniques. Aside from the rules of the game, the players must also abide by fair play regulations. Penalizing aggressive players will teach them to avoid using unsafe tactics such as striking another player, violently colliding with another player and causing intentional injury to another player, among other things.
Filing a Brain Injury Lawsuit
Concussions in sport may be caused due to an organization's negligence to provide safety to its players. Organizations such as the NFL have the obligation to inform their players of the risk of concussions. The failure to uphold their duty of reasonable care and safety has resulted in a number of lawsuits filed by professional NFL players.
To prove the negligence of a sports organization, their practices and policies can be reviewed to establish the duty of care. It is also necessary to prove that there has been a breach of the duty. At this stage, it may be useful to consider the history of the organization's safety violations.
If you or a loved one has suffered a concussion due to negligence, a brain injury lawsuit can help you claim compensation. At Nehora Law, our team of skilled lawyers understand the consequences of sports-related concussions and will ensure you are compensated for your losses. Contact our experienced attorneys for the best legal representation in a personal injury lawsuit.