A concussion is a brain injury that alters the brain's normal functioning, usually caused by some sudden blow to the head. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 3.8 million sports and recreational concussions occur each year. Up to one million of those injuries happen to children according to National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities
Symptoms of concussions can include drowsiness, headache, nausea and vomiting, and in the most severe cases, people can lose consciousness. But the National Institutes of Health notes that a majority of people who have had concussions do not lose consciousness and some may even have the injury and not realize it. The symptoms may not appear until several hours or days after the injury. Close monitoring for neurological symptoms, and early medical evaluation and intervention may be necessary since some blows to the head can be very serious.
Change in Culture
This year, the National Football League stressed a new emphasis on protecting players and identifying concussions. According to the Associated Press, 154 concussions occurred in practice or in games from the preseason through the eighth week of the 2010 NFL season. This represents a 21 percent jump from 2009 levels and 34 percent jump from 2008.
While the rise in concussions is concerning, it is also encouraging. It means that the culture of the NFL regarding concussions has changed, according to Dr. Hunt Batjer, co-chairman of the NFL's head, neck and spine medical committee. The hope of experts is that this culture shift works its way down to sports at lower levels and that younger athletes, parents and coaches learn more about the short- and long-term effects of head injuries.
Prevention for Younger Athletes
Aside from professional sports, much attention has been paid to younger athletes in high-school athletics and other youth sports. After a head injury an athlete is often permitted to continue playing and substantially increase his or her risk of a second, more serious head injury.
Some jurisdictions have even passed laws as part of the effort to prevent compound concussions. Washington state passed the Lystedt Law in 2009. According to a recent National Public Radio report, the Lystedt Law states that once a coach or medical staff personnel suspects that a player has suffered a head injury, that player must be removed from the game.
The law is named after Zackery Lystedt, who was seriously injured in a middle-school football game. He received the initial head injury during the first half, but experienced another blow to the head later in the game, resulting in a serious brain injury.
What to Do After a Head Injury
Whether from a sporting activity or accident, even a seemingly minor blow to the head can have severe consequences. After any sort of head injury, especially for one involving younger children, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. If someone else caused or was responsible for the accident, it is important to discuss your case with an experienced attorney.