Brain and Concussion Injuries
Every year, millions of people in the United States suffer a traumatic brain injury. It’s estimated that more than 50,000 cases result in death. While the causes are as varied as the effects, brain injuries don’t discriminate with their victims. Certain activities may increase the risk, but everyone is susceptible to a brain injury.
Traumatic Brain Injuries and Concussions
One person in the United States sustains a traumatic brain injury every 21 seconds. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), a traumatic brain injury (TBI) is an injury that causes a disruption of normal brain function after a blow or jolt to the head or penetrating head injury. The effects may go away within a few days or cause lasting damages. Common issues include impaired sensation, memory, thinking, emotional functioning or movement.
From 2001 to 2010, TBI-related emergency room visits increased by 70 percent. In 2010, approximately 2.5 million people visited an emergency department after sustaining a TBI. The classification ranges from mild, where there is a brief change in mental status, to severe, where memory loss or unconsciousness is common for a prolonged amount of time after the injury. Most TBIs are mild and commonly referred to as concussions.
As the most common traumatic brain injury, the word concussion is derived from the Latin wordconcutere, or “to shake violently.” A concussion occurs after a blow to the body or head causes a jarring of brain in the skull. Made of soft tissue, the brain is supported by spinal fluid and surrounded by the skull for protection. When an impact occurs, the brain can be jolted, sometimes causing it to move around in the head.
When a concussion occurs, the symptoms can be challenging to notice, even by a medical professional. The signs might not be immediately apparently and then potentially last for days, weeks or longer. The most common concussion symptoms include confusion, headache and amnesia (memory loss, particularly about the event that caused the concussion).
Additional concussion symptoms include:
- Loss of consciousness (temporary)
- Ringing in the ears
- Slurred speech
- Dazed appearance
- Ringing in ears
Delayed concussion symptoms include:
- Difficulty concentrating and remembering
- Light and noise sensitivity
- Taste and smell disorders
- Personality changes, including irritability
- Sleeping issues
If the concussion occurred through a physical activity, it’s crucial to wait until the brain has recovered to return to play. Players with a current concussion are more likely to sustain another and each concussion prolongs the recovery period. Additionally, concussion injuries are cumulative, meaning the more concussions sustained may cause lasting and possibly progressive impairments, including chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
After receiving a concussion diagnosis, it’s important to get plenty of rest to allow the brain to heal. Demanding physical activities and sports should be avoided until cleared by a medical professional. Activities that require large amounts of concentration, including studying, playing on the computer or playing video games, may prolong healing and worsen symptoms.
Slip and falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injury, accounting for 40 percent of all related emergency room visits. Among children, ages 0 to 14, more than 55 percent of TBIs were sustained by falling. The second leading cause is unintentional blunt trauma (15 percent) followed by motor vehicle crashes at 14 percent. Recently, concussions in sports have made quite the statement in the news with more awareness coming to various sports, including football and the NFL, about the dangers of multiple concussions during a prolonged amount of time.
Concussions and TBIs in Auto Accidents
From 2006 to 2010, car accidents were the second leading cause of TBI-related deaths at 26 percent. The impact during an accident can cause the body to jerk violently, causing the brain to jolt suddenly and cause a concussion. Even if a person’s head doesn’t hit anything, a concussion can still occur due to the whiplash. People ages 5 to 24 have the highest TBI-related death rates after a car crash.
It’s important to pay attention to the signs and symptoms of concussions after an auto accident, even if the head didn’t hit during the impact, to ensure proper treatment.
Head Injuries in Slips and Falls
Almost half of all TBIs are related to falls, resulting in emergency room visits, hospitalizations and death. Children from 0 to 14 and adults over the age of 45 are more likely to be hospitalized for their injuries while falls are the leading cause of death for persons over the age of 65. Falls account for most of the TBI-related emergency department visits, except for young adults from 15 to 24.
A slip and fall resulting in a concussion can occur at any time, in any place, to any person. The accident can occur at home by falling off a ladder, slipping in the bathtub or tripping on a rug. Dangerous conditions outside, including ice can cause a fall and blow to the head. Additional risks involve being in a public place and slipping over a spilled liquid or tripping over a display rack positioned in the middle of the aisle.
Nearly 10 years ago, our attorney Jason Luckasevic began studying the devastating effects of brain injury in sports. In that time, he started the case against the NFL for knowingly endangering the lives of the players by failing to disclose the dangers of repeated concussions. A committee formed by the NFL found concussions in football are not serious injuries, but this stance is refuted by many other studies.
Recently, a study of 79 brains from deceased NFL players concluded 76 suffered from the degenerative brain disease CTE. The study also examined 128 former football players and found 101 tested positive for CTE. More than 96 percent of the examined brains tested positive for CTE with more than 78 percent of the former players presenting the disease as well. Despite the NFL’s position, this study showed the longer you play at higher levels, the worse the risk of developing a chronic brain injury.
Former NFL players who suffered from CTE include Junior Seau, Dave Duerson, Chris Henty and Hall of Famer Mike Webster. Seau and Duerson eventually took their own lives, shooting themselves in the chest to donate their brains to be studied.
CTE is the result of repeated concussive and sub-concussive blows. Sometimes referred to as punch-drunk syndrome or dementia puglilistica (DP), this neurodegenerative disease is the result of a buildup of abnormal protein tau that strangles brain cells and affects brain functions, including memory and emotion. Conditions associated with CTE include memory loss, depression and dementia.
Approximately 300,000 sports-related brain injuries occur every year in the United States, including repeat injuries. Sustaining a second concussion increases the risks for traumatic brain injuries and the development of longterm problems. While football receives a lot of attention because of the NFL concussion litigation, many other sports present risks for athletes, including basketball, soccer, hockey, lacrosse, rugby and cheerleading.
Brain Injuries Caused by Oxygen Deprivation
When the brain is deprived of oxygen, severe physical and cognitive damage may occur. The various symptoms of brain oxygen deprivation include memory loss, reduced movement, trouble paying attention, seizures, not breathing and even death. Unfortunately, negligent physicians, surgeons, anesthesiologists and other medical professionals may be at fault for this condition. The most common medical causes include anesthesia misuse, narcotic overdose, fetal hypoxia and stroke.