Flying in the face of conventional beliefs, recent research indicates that children are more likely than adults to experience long-term complications after concussions and other traumatic brain injuries resulting from contact sports or other blows to the head. One-third of kids who survive a traumatic brain injury will experience lasting effects, according to Australian researched released in early 2012.
With help from the Brain Injury Association of Washington and similar groups nationwide, concussion awareness is improving among coaches and others who work with young athletes. A recent survey by Korrio and Axon Sports found that 75 percent of youth coaches are aware of sports-related concussions among young athletes — but the bad news is that 25 percent were not.
For kids involved in contact sports, concussions and related complications like second-impact syndrome can pose a serious risk of permanent harm or even death. Second-impact syndrome occurs when a second brain injury occurs before the first has completely healed, creating a major risk for young athletes who are allowed to continue playing after an undiagnosed concussion.
While the brain is healing from a concussion, it is extremely vulnerable to injury and even a seemingly minor additional blow to the head may trigger rapid, uncontrollable swelling. The sudden increase of pressure that results can quickly cause irreparable brain damage and in many cases is fatal.
Because the risks associated with undiagnosed concussions are extremely high, particularly for kids who play contact sports, it is essential that coaches learn to recognize the signs of concussion and respond to them appropriately. Young athletes with concussion symptoms should be removed from play and barred from further participation until they have been evaluated by a medical professional. Not only is this common sense, but in Washington it is also the law — and many other states are following suit.
Baseline testing can be an effective tool in helping coaches to spot concussions. The method involves testing athletes before the athletic season begins, or at any time when they are not injured, to determine each player’s baseline level of cognitive functioning. Athletes can then be re-tested after experiencing a blow to the head, potentially revealing subtle cognitive changes that are often a sign of concussion.
If your child has experienced a concussion or other traumatic brain injury while playing contact sports, consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer to learn about your options for seeking possible compensation for your child’s injuries and medical costs.