Athlete Concussions and Head Injury

On Behalf of | May 9, 2013 | Medical Malpractice

Experts studying the impact, threat, and potential effects of concussions on young athletes’ leverage heavy warnings to heighten the awareness surrounding the long term effects. Consider this:

• Brain development not complete until mid-20s
• Injury to a not fully developed brain may change path of a life
• Women are more disposed to concussion maybe because necks not as strong
• Children are more prone because of weaker necks

Lobular functions

• Emotions
• Processing of visual and speech cues
• Short to long-term memory transference

Prefrontal cortex:
• Subtle social cue comprehension
• Social interaction and thinking abilities
• Reasoning
• Moral reasoning
• Planning
• Decision making processes
• Problem-solving
• Container thinking
• Task switching

It is a Serious Problem

Athletes need to be made aware of the serious possible repercussions of concussions. The number one reason some players don’t report a concussion is they don’t think it’s serious.

Reality stats tracked by National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research from 1995 -2004 every year
• Football head injury deaths – 44
• High school head injuries with residual lifetime effects – 43
• College players with residual lifetime effects – 5

What is SIS?

Here’s how serious: SIS – Second Impact Syndrome can be.
• 5.1% of football players in college and high school suffer a concussion during a season
• 14.7% of first concussion sufferers will suffer a second concussion
• 47% of high school players report ONE concussion during a season
• 35% of high school players report more than ONE concussion during a season

When a concussion occurs, the brain nerve cells are not at peak performance. Until full recovery occurs, victims are more likely to be reinjured. If re-injury occurs the outcomes can be deadly. This is SIS.

SIS kills up to 50% of the victims who suffer with it. If they don’t die, they are likely to suffer long-term brain damage and / or disability. 95% of these SIS victims are under 18 years old.

Explaining Concussions:

Sudden acceleration or deceleration of the head, sudden impact of the body causing the head to abruptly turn or twist, or bumping and/or knocking the head so the brain bumps around in the skull can all cause the phenomenon known as concussion.

Nerves or neural tissues are not mean to sustain harsh and violent shaking, banging, etc. This type of abuse can damage the tissues and blood vessels of the brain. When trauma to the brain occurs a biochemical cascade of calcium and potassium ions floods the brain. In response, blood vessels constrict and slow the energy food glucose. This lack of energy is a brain crisis and leaves the brain susceptible to further injury until recovered.

Concussion Signs & Symptoms:

Early – within minutes to hours
• Nausea/vomiting
• Slow to respond to questions
• Lack of awareness
• Amnesia – forgetfulness
• Headache
• Dizzy / unsteady / clumsy

Late – days to weeks after event
• Continued headaches
• Sleep problems
• Anxiety or depression (new onset)
• Irritability
• Lack of concentration or focus
• Dizziness or light headed feeling
• Memory issues
• Tiredness
• Sensitivity to lights or noise

Can we prevent Concussions?

General prevention:
• Always wear proper head gear when playing any contact sport
• Increase awareness – educate and stay up to date on new studies
• Develop adequate policies and plans for concussion addressing
• Educate athletes and families that playing with injuries is not smart

Contact Sports Prevention:

• Enforce head cannot be used as first point of contact for tackling and/or blocking
• Coach and teach proper blocking and tackling techniques

Softball & Baseball
• Ban head first slides or teach proper technique
• Require pitches to wear helmets for batting practice

• Anchor soccer goals
• Do not allow players to climb on goals
• Assure proper moving, storage, and maintenance of goals

• Enforce rules against pushing/checking from behind
• Instill conditioning programs to strengthen neck muscles

Swimming & Diving
• Competitive divers must stretch and strengthen to help prevent shoulder injuries
• Enforce rules for racing dives, platform heights to water depth ratio

Common Misconceptions related to Concussions:
• Mouth guards do not prevent concussions
• You do not have to be hit in the head to get a concussion.
• You do not have to pass out to have a concussion.
• Concussions are a VERY big deal

Stats & Facts
• NFL players with history of 3 or more concussions show increased links to depression and cognition difficulties common to Alzheimer’s patients
• NFL posthumous study found Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy tangles similar to dementia victims
• Long term effects of brain injury on young brains are cause for great concern

Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) 1995-2001
• Unknown how many received no care or other care
• Over 1.1 million emergency department visits
• 235,000 hospital stays
• 50,000 deaths
• 300,000 sports related – grossly under reported (750,000 – 2.25 million estimated)

Ages 5-14 Emergency department visits
o 32% hit by something
o 28% fall
o 14% vehicle crash
o 7% assault
o 19% other
o Of the top 60% most recognized as sports injuries

20 most dangerous sports or recreational activities
• Cycling – 70,802
• Football – 40,825
• Basketball – 27,583
• Baseball & softball – 26,964
• Powered recreational vehicles – 25,970
• Soccer – 19,252
• Skateboards or scooters – 18,324
• Fitness or exercise club – 14,713
• Horseback riding – 11,749
• Winter sports – 11,723
• Water sports – 11,239
• Golf – 8420
• Gymnastics/dance/cheerleading – 6364
• Trampolines – 5971
• Hockey – 5272
• Rugby/lacrosse – 4387
• Other types of ball sports – 3935
• Skating – roller or inline – 3320
• Ice skating – 3115
• Wrestling – 2643

Mark Kaire has been practicing law in Miami for nearly 30 years. He is dedicated to helping the injured people of Miami receive compensation. Mr. Kaire has been blogging on Miami’s legal issues for many years.