Brain Injuries on the Rise among Young Athletes

The damage and danger of sports-related head injuries may be more prevalent than parents and kids realize. According to the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council, between 2001 and 2009, there was a 67% increase in concussions and other sports-related head injuries among children. Traumatic brain injury attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm know too well the damaging effects brain injuries can have on children and their families, and find this rise in concussions among young athletes to be unacceptable.

Most of the publicity surrounding sports head trauma focuses on pro football players and their lawsuits against the league. Most recently, the NFL agreed to a $765 million settlement with 4,500 former players, and dropped Riddell as its official helmet supplier. Despite this growing exposure, confusion persists among families of young sports players.

Youth athletics can give children discipline, focus, and an outlet for expressing their physical and mental strength and stamina, however, there is little data regarding how to most safely play the game. In response to the significant increase in sports-related head trauma, states have started drafting and enacting laws focusing on making athletics safer for children.

State Efforts

In New York, for example, a new law now requires an athlete who suffered a concussion to be completely removed from competition for a minimum of 24 hours, and pass a medical test before returning. That rule took effect in July 2013, and school officials statewide were trained-in by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association. Ohio also enacted a bill in 2013 with the same 24-hour requirements.

California, Kentucky and several other states are considering similar bills; the legislation in California would require high school coaches to be better trained in sports medicine, focusing on concussion risks. The Kentucky bill, already passed in the state’s House, would require middle and high school coaches to be trained on the recognition and treatment of concussions.

The passage of these laws, which will undoubtedly soon extend to other states, increases the liability of schools and coaches for student injuries. Should a player suffer a head injury during practice or a game, and a coach or school doctor allows the student to play too soon or too rough, they could be subject to a lawsuit on behalf of the injured child.

If legal action is taken, a post-injury diagnosis as well as follow-up monitoring is crucial to the success of that lawsuit. The effects of concussions sometimes worsen over time, and having a full medical record of when and how head injuries progress is important to assigning responsibility, as it creates evidence of damage.

The Great Unknown

Unlike injuries to other parts of the body, the treatment and long-term effects of concussions and brain trauma are largely unknown. By witnessing pro football players being diagnosed with dementia and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, it has become clear the effects are both progressive degenerative. Concussions are not a short-term injury – and no one yet knows exactly how dangerous they are, or what precise mechanisms of the brain are affected.

Some companies, such as Chicago’s Quantum Institute, are attempting to partly solve this by creating portable brain-mapping technologies to be used on the field. The technology, known as QMap, will determine, within 20 to 30 minutes, whether a player needs further medical attention by generating brain map data. Other, more simple products, such as Head Case, use sensors in helmets to track how hard and how often players are hit. This data then lets coaches and parents know if the child is at risk of a concussion, so they can best determine if they should take a rest.

Our traumatic brain injury lawyers are all members of the Brain Injury Association of Illinois, and have over two decades of experience litigating these types of cases and working with families of victims. Brain injuries are not limited to sports contact; other common accidents that can lead to lawsuits include gun injuries, auto accidents, falls, and Shaken Baby Syndrome. If you or a loved one suffered a head injury by the negligence of another, contact our firm today for a free legal consultation.