After being cancelled last year because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the NCAA basketball tournament is back! Over the course of three weeks and 67 games, we get to watch Cinderella’s rise, giants fall, amazing displays of aerial acrobatics, uncontrollable joy, and inconsolable heartbreak along the road to once again crowning a champion. This tournament not only provides us hours of entertainment, but it provides the athletes the opportunity to showcase and improve their skills. However, the tournament comes with health risks as well, some minor (such as strains and sprains) and some that are potentially more serious (like concussions).
Unfortunately, the chance of suffering a concussion is not limited to playing in the NCAA basketball tournament. Concussions can occur across all levels and all types of sports. Because of this, it is important to have at least a simple understanding of what concussions are, what the symptoms are, and the continuing risks associated with them should you suffer one.
Concussions and the disorders associated with them can pose significant risks to athletes of all ages and skill levels. Concussions have been linked to not only short-term injuries, but also to long-term physical, emotional, and mental injuries. Fortunately, many of these harms are preventable if the proper precautions and safety measure are put into place and followed.
Although not an exhaustive list, sports concussions have been documented in the following sports across all levels and skills:
- Field Hockey
What Is a Concussion?
Concussions are a traumatic brain injury (TBI) that happen when a person’s brain collides with the interior of their skull as a result of a blow to the head or a violent head movement. The collision sets off a multitude of microscopic changes in the person’s brain and produces multiple symptoms that vary from person to person. Although a concussion victim may suffer a brief loss of consciousness or pass out for up to half an hour, concussions do not always result in loss of consciousness.
Immediate Concussion Symptoms Include, but are not Limited to:
- Confusion, disorientation, and inability to focus
- Ringing in the ears
- Lack of balance or coordination
- Metallic taste
- Strong emotions (i.e. anger, sadness, excitement, etc.)
- Slurred/incoherent speech
- Vacant stare
After suffering a concussion, the victim’s brain is vulnerable to additional TBIs. Multiple concussions can increase the risk of poor outcome if there are subsequent concussions. Repeated impacts that are below the force typically required to cause a concussion, also referred to as sub-concussions, pose similar risks to those persons who have already suffered a concussion.
Concussions do not always lead to a physical reaction or leave a physical mark. Some concussion victims feel completely fine just minutes after suffering the injury. However, without visiting a doctor, you cannot be sure whether or not you have suffered a concussion and that your brain has been damaged. Doctors have the skills and training to conduct tests and determine the severity of the TBI you may have suffered and the best course of treatment. Some common diagnostic tests include:
- CT Scans: CT scans are a special computerized X-ray that provide medical providers with images of the brain. They are often used if a doctor suspects brain bleeding or swelling.
- Neurological Tests: These tests can be given by a medical professional to assess a potential concussion victim’s motor and sensory skills, coordination and balance, mental status, the functioning of their cranial nerves, speech and hearing, vision, changes in behavior and mood, and other abilities.
- MRI Scans: This scan provides medical professionals with detailed images of the potential concussion victim’s brain using magnetic energy instead of radiation.
However, even these methods are not fool proof. Even if these methods come up negative, it does not prove that you have not sustained any brain damage. It only means that the victim’s brain damage is not visible on the scans.
Post-Concussion Syndrome – A Continuing Concern
With proper diagnosis and treatment, concussion symptoms can resolve in a couple of weeks, but for some the symptoms persist. Unfortunately, some individuals can develop post-concussion syndrome (PCS).
PCS symptoms typically mirror the symptoms of the original TBI; however, these symptoms can last for months, and sometimes years after the initial injury. To complicate matters more, concussion victims can experience PCS differently with their continuing symptoms depending on the location and severity of the initial TBI. The symptoms associated with PCS can result in a reduction (sometimes drastic) of the victim’s quality of life.
Common PCS Symptoms include, but are not Limited to:
- Trouble with concentration, memory recall, and focus
- Constant fatigue or tiredness despite seemingly adequate rest
- Behavioral changes and/or mood swings such as depression and anxiety
- Loss or reduction of sensory perception
- Physical pains including persistent headaches and migraines
PCS treatments typically focus on easing the victim’s symptoms. For example, a medical professional may refer a PCS patient to a specialist to treat their psychological conditions or prescribe pain medications for a physical condition.
Although the medical community disagrees as to what exactly causes PCS, risk factors for the condition can include everything from the age of the victim to previous head injuries. Because of the symptoms’ varying nature, it is critically important that victims obtain ongoing medical care, closely monitor their condition, and work with appropriate doctors and medical professionals to find a solution.
Concussions and their Long-Term Risks
Concussions and TBIs have been linked to long-term brain damage and the increased risk of progressive neurodegenerative disease. The most serious of these progressive neurodegenerative diseases is Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). CTE is the result of a toxic buildup of protein in the victim’s brain that kills brain cells and eventually causes severe dementia and/or depression. It can take years or decades for CTE symptoms to appear. Some victims’ initial symptoms may include Parkinson-like tremors and others may experience post-traumatic epileptic .
Athletes, particularly those playing contact sports, that suffer repeated head trauma have proven to show a higher likelihood of CTE. In the first stage of this neurodegenerative disease, a victim’s symptoms are usually minor and include headaches and/or mild disorientation. However, as the disease progresses, CTE can lead to poor judgment, memory loss, erratic behavior, emotional instability, vertigo, dementia, tremors, depression, substance use abuse, and even suicidal thoughts or .
Many Concussions and TBIs can be Prevented
Athletes that play fast-paced, contact sports are especially vulnerable to the potential dangers of TBIs and the associated long-term effects. Information about the dangers of TBIs has been known for decades. It is important for sports organizations and coaches to understand the risk and consequences of sports concussions.
Sadly, some sports organizations and coaches have allowed negligent and careless behavior such as:
- Encouraging their player to use excessive force in practices and games
- Pushing players beyond their reasonable physical limits (i.e. heat exhaustion)
- Failure to pull injured players from a game and/or failure to seek proper medical attention
- Failure to properly manage/treat head injuries and/or warn athletes of the risks of repetitive head trauma
FAQs about Concussions
Can I Sue for a Concussion?
If a victim’s concussion is the result of another person’s negligence or carelessness, the victim may be able to file a lawsuit seeking compensation for their losses associated with their TBI. These losses can include everything from the victim’s medical bills, costs of rehabilitation and therapy, lost wages, pain and suffering, and compensation for permanent injury and long-term care costs.
Who is Liable?
Who is liable will depend on the facts specific to your case, but a lawyer can help you determine liability based on these facts. Past cases for liability concerning sport related concussions have been brought against the victim’s school, their coach, a team official, the organization sanctioning the event, or a third party.
Was My TBI Negligently Treated?
According to the medical community, one of the most vital steps a victim should take after suffering a concussion is getting enough rest. Trying to ignore your symptoms and immediately resuming your daily routine can make your symptoms worse and lead to a longer recovery .
If a victim’s experiences new symptoms or their original symptoms come back after they return to their normal activities, this is probably a sign that they are pushing themselves too hard. If their return to normal activities is at the urging of a coach, team, organization, medical professional, or other third party despite these symptoms, that person or organization is likely being negligent.
We Can Help Answer Your Questions about Sports Concussions
You may have the ability to seek compensation if you or a family member has suffered a concussion or is experiencing concussion-like symptoms following a sporting accident. While not all TBIs warrant legal action, consulting a qualified attorney to determine what your rights are is important. Concussions and their symptoms can seriously impact a victim’s life and lead to long lasting repercussions.
For more information about sports concussion injury claims please feel free to contact Grimes Yeoman at (704) 321-4878 or contact us online.