According to the October 2013 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, falls and car accidents are responsible for most cases of minor traumatic brain injuries (“mTBI”). Notably, however, another leading cause of traumatic brain injuries (both minor and severe) is sports and recreational activities. In fact, although infrequent, the leading cause of death from sports-related injuries is traumatic brain injury (“TBI”). Furthermore, sports-and recreational activities contribute to approximately 21% of all TBIs among children and teens.
A traumatic brain injury (“TBI”) is defined as a blow or jolt to the head that disrupts the normal of function of the brain. While mTBIs may result in a concussion without loss of consciousness, more severe traumatic brain injuries can result in extended period unconsciousness, coma, and death. Unfortunately, throughout the beginning of the 21st century, the incidents of TBIs in minors have continued to increase.
According to a report published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”), from 2001 to 2009, the number of sports and recreation-related emergency room visits for TBI among persons aged 19 and younger increased 62%. In addition, the CDC reports that each year U.S. emergency departments treat an estimated 173,285 sports and recreation related TBIs. Additionally, more recently, a study from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital published on September 30, 2013, showed a 92% increase in pediatric visits to their hospital’s emergency rooms for sports-related traumatic brain injury from 2002 to 2011.
Overall, the activities associated with the most TBI-related emergency room visits include bicycling, football, playground activities, basketball and soccer.
As a result of the increase of TBIs amongst adolescents participating in sports and recreation, many states, schools, and sports leagues and organizations have created policies or action plans on concussions in youth and high school sports. In Texas, for instance, in 2011, the State legislature passed HB 2038 relating to the treatment, prevention, and oversight of concussions affecting public school students participating in interscholastic athletics. The law requires the following:
• The governing body of each school district and open-enrollment charter school with students enrolled who participate in sports appoint or approve a concussion oversight team;
• Parents or guardians of student athletes must sign a form that acknowledges receiving and reading written information that explains among other things, concussion prevention, symptoms, treatment, and guidelines for safely resuming participation in an athletic activity following a concussion; and
• Student athletes are to removed from practice or competition immediately if they are believed to have sustained a concussion during practice or competition, and the student may not be permitted to return until evaluated by a physician.
Fortunately, the attention paid toward decreasing TBIs in sports appears to be working. According to one author of the study published by the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, the severity of these cases appears to be decreasing. Even professional sports are taking notice. In late August 2013, the National Football League (“NFL”) announced a settlement between the NFL and 4,500 retired players who claim the league “ignored, minimized, disputed, and actively suppressed” awareness of the link between concussions and chronic neurological diseases. Notably, a research fund built into the settlement agreement may make football safer for participants at all levels, from youth football through the pro level.
Many school or club sports injuries may be the result of negligence by the school or athletic association. Negligence requires several elements: (1) a duty owed to the victim (for example, by the school or coach), (2) a breach of that duty, (3) proof that duty caused your child’s injuries, and (4) damages. If you believe that your child’s TBI or other sports-related injury was caused by someone else’s negligence or do not believe that your child’s school is properly complying with HB 2038, you may be able to recover just compensation. Contact the Texas personal injury lawyers at Carabin and Shaw for a free case evaluation.
Youth Football Leagues Hope for Boost from NFL Settlement, by Katie Moisse, ABC News
Youth sports organizations team up on concussions, by Eric Olson, San Francisco Chronicle
Concussions in Sports and Play: Get the Facts, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
March in Brain Injury Awareness Month, Texas Injury Lawyers Blog, March 25, 2013
Sports-Related Brain Injuries May Speed Up Cognitive Decline Associated With the Aging Process, Texas Injury Lawyers Blog, July 17, 2012