Atlanta Falcons athletes visited the state capital earlier this month in support of the “Georgia Return to Play Act” of 2012. Among the football stars were former linebacker Buddy Curry, current kicker Matt Bryant, offensive lineman Andrew Jackson and wide receiver Kevin Cone. Speaking before the Health and Human Services committee of the Georgia State Legislature, Curry and Bryant expressed their own, as well as their team’s support of the bill. “The most important thing in all of this, anything that you can do to improve the safety for the kids, (…) you find a way,” Bryant said.
A Bill to Protect Georgia’s Youth from TBI
The purpose of the bill, supported by Rep. Billy Mitchell, D-Stone Mountain, is to decrease the incidence of long-term brain injury following sports-related concussions. This goal would be achieved by requiring that information be provided to young athletes, parents, coaches and others about how to recognize and treat these commonplace but potentially fatal head injuries. Similar laws have been passed in 31 states and the District of Columbia.
Kenneth Edmonds, the NFL’s director of government relations and public policy, was also present. The NFL is currently being sued in a number of concussion-related cases. “The NFL, as well as the Atlanta Falcons, strongly supports the Georgia’s Return to Play Act of 2012,” Edmonds said. “We feel that it will help to prevent brain injuries and help make the recreational activities safer for young athletes throughout the state.”
Not All Fun and Games: Traumatic Brain Injuries in Youth Sports on the Rise
According to the CDC, traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) from sports and recreation activities are on the rise:
- Trips to emergency rooms due to sports-related TBIs including concussions, have increased by 60 percent in the last decade.
- Every year, an estimated 173,285 children and adolescents (up to 19-years-old) are treated in emergency rooms with sports and recreation-related TBIs.
- Two to five high school football players die each fall as a result of on-field brain injuries.
- Teenagers are more susceptible to severe reactions from receiving multiple hits to the head. Since young people’s brain tissue is still developing, successive head traumas are more likely to result in potentially fatal intensive swelling and brain bleeds.
As one might expect, contact sports are particularly dangerous for TBIs. According to the University of Pittsburg’s Neurological Surgery Department:
- The likelihood of sustaining a concussion while playing a contact sport is estimated to be 19 percent per year of play.
- 34 percent of college football players have had one concussion, and 20% have experienced multiple concussions.
These potentially dangerous injuries can happen anywhere, and even in sports not traditionally considered dangerous:
- A national survey found that 31 percent of sports and recreation-related injuries occurred in a sports facility and 20 percent occurred in a school facility.
- While males make up the majority of the cases of sports-related concussions, a recent study highlighted in The Chicago Tribune found that females are actually more prone to suffering concussions. Girls aged 10-19 suffered concussions most frequently while playing soccer or basketball, or while cycling.
What is a Concussion?
The CDC defines a concussion as “a type of brain injury or TBI that is caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head that can change the way your brain normally works.” Blows to the body can also result in a concussion, by causing the head to rapidly move back and forth. Although most concussions occur without a loss of consciousness, they are still considered brain injuries and should be taken seriously.
According to neurologists at the University of Pittsburg, concussions can cause devastating neuropsychological impairments. Risk of serious long-term brain injury or even death increases with successive concussions. This is called “second impact syndrome.” Athletes who suffer a second head trauma while still recovering from a previous concussion are particularly endangered. For this reason, recognition of symptoms and appropriate response to a concussion is crucial in preventing serious injury or death.
Signs and Symptoms
A useful fact sheet from the CDC describes signs and symptoms that may indicate a concussion:
- Dazed or stunned appearance
- Clumsy movement
- Slowed speech
- Loss of consciousness (even if brief)
- Personality changes
- Headaches or feelings of “pressure” in head
- Nausea or vomiting
- Difficulty with balance
- Double or blurry vision
- Sensitivity to light and/or noise
- Sluggishness or grogginess
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, when athletes experience any of these symptoms after receiving a bump or blow to the head, they should refrain from playing sports until they receive clearance from a medical professional.
In recent years, however, the culture of youth and college athletics has grown increasingly competitive, oftentimes to the detriment of the players. When the health and safety of the players are valued less than team wins or ticket sales, young athletes suffer the consequences of debilitating injuries, and even death.
Have You Or Someone You Love Suffered from a Sports-Related TBI?
If you or someone you care about has suffered from a TBI caused by injury in sports or otherwise, you may be eligible for compensation. Traumatic brain injuries can be physically, emotionally and financially draining. Don’t suffer alone. Contact us today and our experienced attorneys will provide you with a free consultation to determine whether pursuing legal action may be right for you.