Just in time for back-to-school, the New Hampshire legislature has passed a new concussion safety law designed to protect student athletes from the damaging neurological effects of sports-related repeated head injuries. Under the new law, any coach or athletic official who suspects an athlete has suffered a concussion must immediately remove him or her from play. That athlete will have to receive written permission from both his or her parents as well as an authorized healthcare provider before being allowed to return to the game. Additionally, information about traumatic brain injuries related to repeated concussions must be distributed to young athletes and their families each year.
As of May 2012, 38 states in the country had passed similar laws designed to protect young athletes. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 300,000 sports and recreation related traumatic brain injuries (TBI) occur each year in the U.S. A concussion is an injury caused by a blow which forces the head to move violently. Symptoms can impair memory, judgment, reflexes, speech, balance and muscle coordination. A concussion is considered a minor form of TBI.
When an athlete who has suffered a concussion returns to game play before the injury has fully healed, he or she is at extreme risk of sustaining a secondary injury that could result in irreversible brain damage or even death. Young athletes are particularly at risk because their developing brains take longer to heal than those of adults, so standard recovery time guidelines may not allow them a sufficient rest period.
Two very serious injuries can occur when a concussed player returns to sports prematurely: post-concussion and/or second-impact syndrome. Both these conditions can develop if an athlete suffers a second blow to the head before the initial injury has healed, and both conditions are serious and potentially life-threatening.
Post-concussion syndrome, a fairly common injury, causes the sufferer to experience cognitive deficits like difficulty concentrating, headaches, sleep disturbances, dizziness, irritability, anxiety, depression and apathy. Some of these symptoms may prove to be permanent and irreversible. Second-impact syndrome causes the brain to bleed and swell; without immediate treatment, the injured party can die fairly quickly. The only way to prevent an athlete from developing either of these serious conditions is to prevent him or her from returning to sports play until the initial head injury or concussion has fully healed.
If an athlete returns to play prematurely after sustaining a head injury, and develops further, more serious health problems, several different parties may be held liable for his or her injuries. The coach or school for whom the athlete plays may be financially responsible for damages if he, she or they did not recognize the signs of a concussion; guarantee the player access to quick and appropriate medical treatment; and/or enforce sufficient safety guidelines determining the appropriate time to return to play after a head injury.
Health care providers and athletic trainers may be held accountable if they fail to notice an initial concussion and/or clear an athlete to return to sports play before his or her injury has fully healed. Finally, managing boards and other governing bodies who regulate youth sports play may be held accountable if it becomes evident that they failed to enforce appropriate safety guidelines for their league(s).
Suffering a TBI may completely alter the course of a young person's life, resulting in long term deficiencies and the need for extensive medical intervention. If your child sustained a TBI while engaged in youth athletics, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact the personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Itkin today for a free and confidential consultation.