Preventing Pediatric Traumatic Brain Injury in Pennsylvania Sports

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Western Pennsylvania is crazy about high school football – affectionately known in this corner of the universe as “Friday Night Lights.” And fans of high school football, as well as parents and coaches of players, know that the sport is rough and tumble, and injuries are not at all uncommon.

While a tweaked hamstring or a hyperextended knee can sideline even the best player, some of the most concerning injuries involve concussions, and concussions, when severe and/or not treated properly, can lead to traumatic brain injuries.

For those who aren’t familiar with the common gridiron injury: A concussion is a brain injury caused by a bump or blow to the head, or even by a body injury that forces the head to jerk back and forth.

Concussions can be mild or severe, and when severe, can interrupt brain function. In some cases, concussions can lead to a traumatic brain injury that can spur short-term or even lifelong disability.

According to the Brain Injury Association of Pennsylvania:

  • There are an estimated 3.8 million sports-related and recreation-related concussions reported in the United States each year.
  • Of those 3.8 million concussions, about 156,000 happen in the state of Pennsylvania each year.
  • In organized high school sports, football accounts for the majority of concussions – more than 60 percent of them.
  • Repeat concussions that happen before the first is fully healed can lead to traumatic brain injury, brain swelling, permanent brain damage and in some cases, even death.

In Pennsylvania, the Legislature has been proactive with respect to concussion – and in turn, traumatic brain injury – prevention.

According to the Pennsylvania Medical Society, the state Legislature passed and then Gov. Tom Corbett signed into law a bill that requires better monitoring of concussions in scholastic athletes.

The law took effect July 1, 2012 and, among other things:

  • Required student athletes and their parents to sign a concussion and traumatic brain injury information sheet
  • Required coaches to take an annual concussion management certification training course
  • Required coaches to take students who show signs of having a concussion or traumatic brain injury from the field of play
  • Required student athletes who suffered a traumatic brain injury/concussion to be medically cleared before returning to the game

Coaches who do not comply with the rules may be suspended from coaching for the remainder of the season for a first violation. Coaches who receive three violations will be permanently suspended from a coaching or athletic activity.

So, what are the symptoms of a concussion or traumatic brain injury? According to the Brain Injury Association of America, symptoms can vary widely and include:

  • Physical impairments (such as headaches, speech or vision problems, fatigue, muscle spasms, and, in some cases, paralysis.
  • Cognitive impairments (such as short-term memory loss, impaired concentration, limited attention span, judgement and communication skills, and slowed thinking).
  • Emotional impairments (such as mood swings, anxiety, depression, lowered self-esteem and more).

A recent study in the publication “Pediatrics” indicates that concussions and traumatic brain injury in children can have other long-lasting consequences, as well.

According to the report, children ages 6 to 13 who suffer from a traumatic brain injury are more likely to be affected by attention deficit disorder.

And that’s not all: Another recent study determined that concussions, if left untreated, can also lead to dementia.

While there are safeguards in place to screen for and treat concussions and traumatic brain injury, if you or someone you love suffered a TBI you believe was caused by negligence on the part of a coach, trainer or medical professional, you should always consult an experienced Pittsburgh personal injury lawyer.

To determine if you have a legal claim related to a traumatic brain injury or concussion, call the Pittsburgh personal injury attorneys at Pribanic & Pribanic today to schedule a free initial consultation by calling 412-672-5444 or toll free at 800-392-4529.

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