Head Injuries on the Rise for Snowboarders and Football Players

Traumatic brain injury lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm report of two recent findings detailing that the risk of head injury is increasing in certain sports. Football injuries have increased 22% in the past ten years, and it appears that the nonchalant attitude many snowboarders and freeskiers have with respect to concussions and other injuries may have an effect on their long-term health.

A recent article by USA TODAY highlights the troubling overall acceptance of head injuries among skiers and snowboarders, particularly in the professional ranks. Athletes and doctors alike affirm that there is a blasé attitude among those in their teens and early 20s, who feel a sense of invincibility while attempting tricks. Many of the pro athletes interviewed for the article characterized a head injury as a minor injury.

This is because, for professional athletes, injuries such as a torn ACL or broken bone means they will be out of commission perhaps for the rest of the season. If they get a concussion, even though the long-term effects are much more severe, they may consider it far less challenging to bounce back from. The effects, however, are becoming increasingly difficult to ignore.

In 2012, freeskier Sarah Burke died after hitting her head during training in Park City. In a similar but less tragic training accident, snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler was practicing on a trampoline when she over-rotated and slammed her head into her knee, breaking her eye socket and nose. She estimated that this was about her fifth concussion. Two other Olympic boarders, Scotty Lago and Kevin Pearce, estimated that they have had about six or seven concussions. Shaun White said he’d suffered nine.

Kevin Pearce suffered a traumatic brain injury two months before the 2010 Vancouver Olympics when he was trying to land a difficult trick. He recalls feeling sick, dizzy, and ‘gone’ after the fall, and had to undergo years of rehab to relearn basic motor skills and functions and improve vision and memory.

Concussion research is increasing, but is focused heavily on football injures. Recent research by doctors at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital found that, although injuries for kids aged five to 14 decreased overall, the injuries from ball sports showed an increase, with soccer and football leading by far. The brain damage sustained by aggressive physical contact for many years can have devastating consequences, starting with focus and concentration issues, and developing into dementia and aggression. As a result, the NFL has banned some potentially dangerous helmet-on-helmet hits through increased regulations, and college and youth football programs throughout the nation have introduced numerous new safety precautions.

Similar long-term research for snowboarders is noticeably lacking, however, as the first generation of these athletes are still competing professionally. What physicians and trainers are learning has come largely from football studies, which have illuminated the significant threat of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in those athletes.

One study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine found that the number of closed head injuries more than doubled at Taos Ski Valley after it started allowing snowboarders on the slopes. Prior to their admittance, about 9.3 Taos skiers suffered a head injury per 100,000 visits. This rate soared to 19.5 per 100,000 after the resort started allowing snowboarding. The study’s lead author stated that most of the head injuries involved concussion-type systems, and only a few required advanced imaging testing.

A physician for the U.S. Snowboard team said that everyone has become much more aware of the significance of concussions in recent years, but that this importance is not something professionals always see. It seems that the only ones who do recognize it are the ones most affected. Three years after his accident, Kevin Pearce still cannot compete. He is now part of the #loveyourbrain campaign, which seeks to educate the youth about the very real dangers of head injuries.

Traumatic brain injury lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm have extensive experience handling the unique conditions surrounding these types of cases. We understand that brain injuries are one of the most debilitating accidental injuries, which can result in severe disability or death and astronomical medical bills. If you or a loved one suffered a traumatic brain injury through the negligence or carelessness of another, contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible, as you may be entitled to significant compensation.