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Prompt, Appropriate Treatment for Concussions Necessary at All Sport Levels

Steve Wagner

The topic of concussions remains at the forefront of discussions, particularly in sports. The movie Concussion, starring Will Smith, has shone an even brighter spotlight on the NFL and their efforts to repress the research of Dr. Bennet Omalu, who found a link between repeated head injuries and the decline of medical and mental health facing former NFL players, a condition referred to as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). Dr. Omalu contends that many players have died as a result of the brain damage caused by repeated hits in football.

The conversation has also begun in the NHL, where the family of former Blackhawk, Steve Montador, filed suit against the National Hockey League. The family alleges that the NHL failed to warn Montador, who died at the age of 35 and was diagnosed posthumously with CTE, of the long-term neurological risks associated with the kinds of repeated head injuries common in the sport of hockey. At least five former players have been diagnosed with CTE after death, but the league continues to deny a link between the diagnosis and play in the NHL. A majority of these players sustained numerous head injuries, many as a result of the common occurrence of fistfights during hockey games.

A class-action lawsuit against U.S. Soccer, U.S. Youth Soccer, the American Youth Soccer Organization, U.S. Club Soccer and the California Youth Soccer Association has resulted in sweeping changes with regard to the teaching and use of headers (using one’s head to strike and direct the ball) in youth soccer. Parents brought the lawsuit in 2014, charging the organizations with negligence in the treatment and monitoring of head injuries. As a result of the new rules, youth soccer players aged 10 and under will not be allowed to head the ball in practices or games, and players 11-13 will be allowed to head the ball only in practices. In addition, there are new educational programs aimed at concussion awareness for all involved in the sport, as well as uniform protocol for concussion management and return-to-play.

Children can prove difficult cases to manage without proper training for many reasons; however, one being the fact that the onset of concussion symptoms is often delayed in children. A child may say they feel fine immediately after an injury and develop symptoms weeks or even months later, at which point the parent, child, coach, and doctor may fail to link the symptoms to the injury in order to accurately diagnose concussion. It is possible in this way for a child to sustain multiple minor brain injuries before concussion is suspected and properly treated, and this may result in more serious, long-term symptoms, including cognitive difficulties and emotional disturbances.

It is important to remember that head injuries can occur in any sport setting, even a casual adult league in any given sport. Prompt diagnosis and appropriate treatment is critical for long-term prognosis. If you or your child has been suffering as a result of delayed diagnosis of a concussion or a missed diagnosis of previous concussion, you may find difficulty in completing simple daily tasks. You may need ongoing medical, emotional, and therapeutic support while being unable to work. We can help by providing the legal assistance you need to focus on healing. Call the medical malpractice and personal injury attorneys at Wagner Reese for your FREE consultation: (888) 204-8440.

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