How to Recognize a Concussion or Other Brain Injury

Concussions are the most common type of brain injury in both adults and children. A forceful blow to the head, or any changes in memory or personality, are both warning signs that you, your child, or loved one may have suffered a concussion.

Sports Injuries

Concussions are a frequent occurrence in sports. There are some warning signs that an athlete may have suffered a concussion:

  • headache
  • sensitivity to light and sound
  • double or blurry vision
  • nausea or vomiting
  • confusion and feeling sluggish

Concussions among youth athletes are a growing problem. In the decade from 2000 to 2010, the number of young sports players treated in the ER for concussions sustained on the playing field doubled. As far as team sports, football and ice hockey were the most dangerous for concussions. Skiing, biking, and playground activities were the most frequent causes of individual sports concussions. Female student athletes are more likely to sustain a head injury playing the same sport as her male peer.

Concussions in teens can take a deadly turn – in North Carolina, two high school football players died after sustaining traumatic brain injuries in the space of two months. These tragedies led that state to require a doctor’s clearance before an athlete can return to the field after suffering a blow to the head. Even a decade ago, it was common to see students back on the field minutes after: coaches and physicians agree that it is imperative that a player be examined by a concussion specialist before resuming play. This month, two female basketball players in Illinois were sidelined after suffering concussions.

Helmet wearing in all these activities is especially important. Coaches can enforce helmet wearing in football and ice hockey (while not completely eliminating the risk), but parents have the responsibility to enforce helmet wearing for their children who bike, ski or snowboard, and skateboard.

Figure skating is another individual sport where the risk of concussion is high. According to Peter Zapalo, the director of sports science and medicine at U.S. Figure Skating, “a missed landing or collision with the rink wall could lead to a concussion, sprain or broken bone. The more complex the move, the greater the risk.”

Car Accident Injuries

The number one way to prevent concussions (and death) in a car crash is to wear a seatbelt. Obeying posted speed limits and refraining from driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol are also paramount in preventing accident-related brain injuries.

On January 20, 27-year-old Jared Kenyon crashed in Ellisburg, New York, and suffered a concussion. His car veered off the road and flipped over. The cause was speeding. No other vehicles were involved.

Victims of concussions caused by cars need not be driving themselves. Seven years ago, in Ontario, then-13-year-old Tyler Lisacek was riding his bike home from swimming. He removed his helmet due to feeling overheated. He was hit by an SUV going 60 miles an hour. Lisacek’s injuries were extensive – no section of his brain was spared. He has been able to pursue Photography at Algonquin College, but his life has never been the same. He now speaks to youth  groups and urges kids to always wear their helmet while biking.

What You Can Do

There are 1.4 million traumatic brain injury-related deaths, ER visits, and hospitalizations each year. In addition to sports and motor vehicle crashes, falls, assaults, and collisions are the most common causes. Those most at risk are children and young adults up to age 24, and the elderly  over 75.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, you can

Make living areas safer for seniors by:

  • Removing tripping hazards such as throw rugs and clutter in walkways
  • Using nonslip mats in the bathtub and on shower floors
  • Installing grab bars next to the toilet and in the tub or shower
  • Installing handrails on both sides of stairways
  • Improving lighting through­ out the home

And you can make living areas safer for children by:

  • Installing window guards to keep young children from falling out of open windows
  • Using safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs when young children are around
  • Keeping stairs clear of clutter
  • Securing rugs and using rubber mats in bathtubs
  • Not allowing children to play on fire escapes or on other unsafe platforms.

If you, your child, or a loved one has sustained a blow to the head and could have suffered a concussion, first, contact a physician. Next, contact a personal injury attorney, such as the lawyers at Christensen & Hymas, for a free consultation. Medical bills and lost wages can quickly add up in brain injury cases, depending on severity, so it’s a good idea to speak with someone who deals with such matters.

Image courtesy: U.S Army imagery 

Ken Christensen
Partner, Founder at Christensen & Hymas
Ken Christensen is the founding partner of Christensen & Hymas. He is an avid cyclist, loves baseball, and enjoys spending time with his family in the outdoors.

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