Recent high-profile reports on the danger of concussions have lead many lawmakers nationwide to enact safety standards for youth sports. Sadly, these standards come too late for athletes like high school football players Jacob Snakenberg and Matthew Gfeller who each died from second-impact syndrome, a traumatic injury that occurs when a second concussion occurs before a previous concussion has healed. Tragedies like these have brought together diverse organizations like professional athletic leagues, medical associations and family advocacy groups to support state legislation mandating better education and protocols on the handling of concussions.
Concussions are unpredictable and, therefore, more dangerous than many realize. Not only can they be hard to diagnose, it can be equally difficult to diagnose their severity and rate of healing. As a result, education and caution about concussions is vital, which ultimately is the goal of recent legislation. In Illinois, for instance, youth concussion House Bill 200 was passed with the support of the NFL team, the Chicago Bears. The law requires Illinois schools to create guidelines and policies for coaches, students and parents regarding recognizing and treating concussions. These policies must comply with the Illinois High School Association’s (IHSA) rules on concussions. Concurrently, IHSA updated its protocols on a student returning to play following a concussion to read, “In cases when an athlete is not cleared to return to play the same day as he/she is removed from a contest following a possible head injury (i.e., concussion), the athlete shall not return to play or practice until the athlete is evaluated by and receives written clearance from a licensed health care provider to return to play.“
Greater understanding of the effects of concussions is growing. One reason professional teams like the Chicago Bears have led the support for youth concussion legislation is due to an increasing understanding of the concussion trauma affecting their own players. Even when initial symptoms appear to pass, repeated blows can lead to compounded damage that does not emerge for years. As a result, Chronic Trauma Encephalopathy (CTE) has been diagnosed in many football players like former Chicago Bear Dave Duerson and Philadelphia Eagle’s Andre Waters. Duerson and Waters both exhibited uncharacteristic personality changes and neurological issues before ultimately taking their own lives. Correctly suspecting CTE was to blame for his head pain and depression, Duerson’s final words were to request his brain be donated for research on football-related brain trauma. Water’s brain tissue was found to have received substantial damage from numerous concussions throughout his career. A neuropathologist noted that the 44-year-old’s brain tissue had degenerated to resemble that of an 85-year-old man’s in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.
While the recent legislation addresses youth sports concussions, hopefully these new laws will also lead to a larger awareness by the overall public. Though many concussions occur in sports, many more happen in everyday situations such as on-the-job injuries, traffic accidents, and even accidents at home. Approximately 3.8 million people in the United States suffer a concussion each year, which only accounts for those that are reported. It is important, therefore, to know that even seemingly harmless blows have the potential to become very serious, very fast. What can initially seem like a simple headache can actually become traumatic swelling or damage of the brain, leading to vision or hearing problems, memory loss, cognitive issues, coma and even death. If you suspect a concussion, seek medical attention immediately. Additionally, head injuries sustained in an accident or at work may be eligible for compensation. Contact a Chicago personal injury lawyer for information.
About the Author: Brooke Haley marketing associate at Millon & Peskin, Chicago workers compensation attorney that practice in the areas of Civil Litigation, Workers’ Compensation, and Personal Injury. Millon & Peskin is a General Civil Litigation Practice with the goal of representing the interests of injured workers, throughout all applicable Courts within the State of Illinois. For more information, please visit http://www.millonpeskin.com.