A concussion is one of the most common head injuries. But, despite its prevalence, a concussion can have serious ramifications that lead to long-term injuries that affect a person and their family forever.
Here is how a serious concussion is described by Popular Science: “Picture the brain as a bowl of grey spaghetti that is suddenly flung out of an airplane1.” The striking visual of noodles being stretched and snapped from the pressure shows just how dangerous a concussion can be.
For some people, the symptoms of a concussion can last up to a year. For others, the changes to the composition of the brain can have long-lasting consequences that lead to more serious complications like degenerative diseases.
But, if someone else was responsible for causing a concussion, there may be a way to get compensation for medical costs and pain and suffering. Learn more about how you might be able to get the justice you deserve with the help of an attorney.
A concussion is an injury to the brain that temporarily leads to the loss of regular brain function. It is typically caused by a blow to the head or shaking of the head and upper body. Many people still associate concussions with a loss of consciousness, but they can occur even when there is no external evidence of head injury.
The more formal medical definition of a concussion is “a clinical syndrome characterized by immediate and transient alteration in brain function, including alteration of mental status and level of consciousness, resulting from mechanical force or trauma,” according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons2.
Prevalence of Concussions
Concussions are usually lumped under statistics on traumatic brain injury because they are the most common and mild type of traumatic brain injury.
In 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that about 2.8 million TBI-related emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and deaths occurred in the country3. Of those people, nearly 50,000 people died from their injuries and another 282,000 required hospitalizations.
From 2007 to 2013, the numbers of traumatic brain injuries that resulted in a visit to the emergency room increased by 47 percent. However, those numbers may be an indication of increased awareness surrounding the dangers of concussions.
Concussions are particularly common among children playing sports. About 300,000 children suffer sports-related concussions every year in the United States, according to the University of Pittsburgh’s Brain Trauma Research Center4.
What Happens During a Concussion?
Because the brain is so important, it features several safety mechanisms to protect it from damage. For example, the brain is surrounded by a clear liquid called cerebrospinal fluid and membranes called meninges. These provide a cushion to the brain during movement.
However, when an impact against the head is too great, the brain gets pushed around inside the skull. This causes the brain to slam against the front and back of the skull. This is where that Popular Science description of a concussion as spaghetti being thrown out of a plane comes in. Nerve fibers stretch and break while the brain is hit inside the skull because different parts of the brain move at different speeds.
Chemical changes occur within the brain from the hits that impair nerve cell functions. Without those functions, parts of the brain may not be able to send signals, causing the symptoms of a concussion.
Other injuries can also worsen the effects of a concussion. According to BrainFacts.org, “these kinds of injuries include the production of harmful chemicals called free radicals, inflammation, impaired transport of molecules within nerve cells, and imbalances of key ions needed for nerve function5.”
All of these changes to the brain contribute to short- and sometimes long-term symptoms.
Some symptoms of concussions will manifest themselves immediately while others will take a few hours. These include:
- Pressure in the head
- Temporary loss of consciousness
- Ringing in the ears
- Light sensitivity
- Noise sensitivity
- Sleep changes
- Personality changes
- Behavior changes
- Memory loss
- Slow responsiveness
In some cases, a concussion will not have any noticeable symptoms.
Signs of Concussion in Toddler
Head trauma is unsurprisingly common among toddlers who are prone to accidents. Symptoms are usually the same but can be more difficult to recognize. Symptoms include:
- Excessive crying
- Out-of-character behavior
- Unusual sleeping patterns
What is Post-Concussion Syndrome?
Symptoms of concussion will typically disappear within a few weeks. In rare cases, symptoms can last for months and even years. This is called post-concussion syndrome (PCS).
The main symptoms of PCS are headaches, sleep problems, depression, anxiety, and cognitive problems that last longer than usual.
Post-concussion syndrome remains somewhat controversial among doctors and researchers who argue whether it is a true medical condition or rooted more in psychological factors. Medical imaging done on brains in patients saying they have PCS often look like brains before concussions. However, evidence suggests structural damage may be done to the brain that causes longer-lasting symptoms.
Treatment for PCS remains somewhat limited. Pain medications will usually be given to relieve headaches while other specialists may be involved to treat mental health symptoms.
Although concussions can happen in all sorts of situations, sports-related concussions are among the most alarming among youth and professionals alike.
Football has been particularly affected by concerns over concussions, as mounting evidence suggests a lifetime of blows to the head — even minor but repeated hits — can cause debilitating diseases and symptoms later in life.
In one of the most alarming studies relating football to long-term brain injuries, it was found that 110 out of 111 brains of NFL players suffered from a degenerative brain disease called CTE. The damage wasn’t limited to only professional players either. College and high school players also showed signs of CTE in their brains.
Concussions can result in the loss of cognitive and motor function as well as behavior changes that can lead to suicide.
NFL Concussion Lawsuits
The dangers of concussions in football culminated in lawsuits from thousands of former players who accused the NFL of downplaying the risks of concussions and hiding their effects on players. With mounting evidence suggesting a strong link between football concussions and serious complications later in life, the two sides agreed to a settlement of an estimated $1 billion.
Under the settlement, up to $5 million will be given to retired players who are suffering from qualified brain injuries, such as ALS, neurocognitive impairment, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, and dementia.
Other Types of Concussion Lawsuits
NFL players are not the only ones who are capable of suing over concussions. Those who have suffered concussions that were caused by another person’s reckless behavior or negligence may also be able to receive compensation.
Everyone has the duty to act with reasonable care to prevent injury to another person. When someone fails to meet that expectation, they could be held accountable in a court of law.
For example, car accidents are among the most common lawsuits relating to concussions. In many cases, an individual was struck by another person who was driving recklessly. If the person suffered a concussion as a result of the crash, they could sue the driver for damages, including medical expenses and pain and suffering.
Individuals have also successfully filed lawsuits against the makers of football helmets. In a 2013 case, a high school football player allegedly suffered permanent brain damage from a concussion he suffered while wearing a Riddell helmet. A jury found the helmet company failed to warn the student of the risks of concussion. He won a $3.1 million verdict6.
Anyone who thinks they may have a case against an individual or organization after suffering a concussion should contact a qualified attorney immediately.