Concussion Injury and High School Athletes
According to recent census data, there are 20 to 21 million students enrolled in public and private high schools in the United States. It is also estimated that around 5 million students actively participate in at least one school-sponsored athletic activity. Although the vast majority of these students will escape serious injury, a growing body of evidence has suggested that concussion is more dangerous than previously suspected.
On this page, the high school sports injury lawyer at the Doan Law Firm will review the medical profession's current understanding of both the short- and long-term consequences of concussion injuries in young athletes and how that understanding is reflected in state law and local school policy. He will then review the legal avenues that may be open to injured athletes, and their parents, that could be used to secure fair compensation for the victims of such injuries.
What is a "concussion" and why is it dangerous?
According to the American Association of Neurologic Surgeons (AANS) , a "concussion" is:
"… an injury to the brain that results in temporary loss of normal brain function … usually is caused by a blow to the head."
More formally, the AANS defines a concussion as :
"… a clinical syndrome characterized by immediate and transient alteration in brain function, including alteration of mental status and level of consciousness, resulting from mechanical force or trauma."
From the perspective of personal injury law, concussion injuries will generally fall into one of two categories:
- Acute concussion / reinjury
- Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy
Acute concussion with reinjury
Also known as "Second Impact Syndrome," acute concussion with reinjury is the term used to describe the usually-catastrophic consequences of when a victim receives a second concussion before the symptoms of an earlierconcussion have resolved. In the vast majority of these cases, the second concussion causes the victim's brain to swell so rapidly that the brain stem, the portion of the brain that regulates the body's respiratory and heart rate as well as the blood pressure, to become compressed against the base of the skull before surgery can even be contemplated. It goes without saying that once such swelling occurs, the victim's chances of surviving are practically zero.
In Second Impact Syndrome, the impact leading to the second injury is often less than that which caused the initial concussion. Since the development of this condition seems to occur only if the symptoms caused by the first have not completely resolved, practically all sports medicine physicians recommend following the current "best practice" of not allowing an injured athlete to return to practice and/or competition until all symptoms of the first concussion are gone.
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy
For many years medical practitioners, and the various athletic groups that regulated both amateur and professional athletes, viewed concussion injuries as an inconvenient, but unavoidable, consequence of "full contact" sports such as soccer, American football, hockey, and boxing. This perception has radically changed since the early 2000s when repeated "mild" head trauma, such as that routinely experienced by professional football players, was linked to a condition known as "Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy" (CTE).
CTE, originally believed to affect only professional boxers (where it was known as dementia pugilistica or "punch drunk"), is a clinical syndrome (an association of symptoms seen in patients having at least one common factor in their medical histories) that may cause the unexpected or earlier than would be expected development of:
- attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD)
- memory loss
- depression, with suicidal behavior
- impulsive behavior
- emotional instability
- a movement disorder similar to Parkinson's disease
Note that the development of CTE usually do not develop until well after the victim is no longer a participant in the athletic activity during which the initial injuries occurred. Thus, establishing liability for the development of this condition may prove difficult. This is an issue that should be discussed with a Texas school athletic injury lawyer.
The law, student-athletes, and concussion
In some states, such as Texas, each school district is allowed to establish its own policy regarding concussion so long as that policy does not conflict with the guidelines set forth by the national organizations such as the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the National Federation of State High Schools (NFSH), and various professional medical societies. Most importantly, an injured athlete who shows the signs and symptoms of a concussion cannot return to practice or to play until the next day or until 24 symptom-free hours have passed.
Legal options that may be available
In general, a lawsuit that arises from a concussion injury will be a personal injury lawsuit where there may be more than one defendant. In such lawsuits, you and/or your child (the plaintiffs) will allege that the school district, its coaching staff, and anyone else in a position of authority regarding the athletic event where your child's concussion injury occurred (the defendants) failed to follow established guidelines for dealing with a concussion injury and that failure caused your child to receive improper care and/or another injury.
Since there many other variables that may need to be considered, it is essential that an experienced Texas school sports injury lawyer be consulted before any decisions regarding a personal injury lawsuit are made.
Contacting a school sports injury lawyer
On this page we have learned that, far from being essentially harmless, concussion injuries can cause symptoms years after a victim no longer participates in a given sports activity.
In order to protect a victim's right to receive compensation for their injury, it will be necessary to retain the services of a high school sports injury lawyer who:
- is familiar with the various concussion protocols currently in use
- is willing to thoroughly investigate the circumstances of each concussion case
- has access to expert witnesses who will testify on behalf of your concussion injury case
- knows how to negotiate with schools and their liability insurance carriers
- is ready to fight to make sure that your child receives a fair settlement of his or her injury case
One such lawyer is the high school sports injury lawyer at the Doan Law Firm, a nationwide law practice with offices located in major cities throughout the country.
When you contact the high school injury lawyer at the Doan Law Firm to arrange a free evaluation of your child's potential concussion injury law suit, your initial consultation with our firm is always free and never requires you to hire our firm as your legal counsel. If you later decide that we should represent you in your concussion injury lawsuit, we are willing to assume full responsibility for all aspects of preparing your case for trial in exchange for an agreed-upon percentage of the final settlement that we will win for you.
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