What is a A Concussion?
As lawyers for victims of traumatic brain injuries, we have found that victims of concussions rarely take them as seriously as they should. Few realize that a concussion is a form of traumatic brain injury. Fewer still appreciate the potentially serious, long-term impairments a concussion can cause. In this blog post, we hope to set the record straight for you about what concussions are, how they can affect your life, and how an experienced personal injury lawyer can help concussion victims obtain financial compensation.
A Concussion Is a Traumatic Brain Injury
Most people associate traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) with the wounds soldiers suffer in training and battle, or the head injuries that leave car accident victims in comas. That understanding of TBIs is accurate … but it’s not complete. A concussion is the most common of all traumatic brain injuries—so common, in fact, that many people who suffer concussions do not realize they’ve injured their brains at all. Though popular understanding of concussions has begun to change, thanks to stepped-up concussion awareness in high-profile pro sports like football, for decades people treated concussions (a.k.a. “getting your bell rung” or “seeing stars”) as something to brush off, like a scraped knee or a sore muscle. That needs to change. A concussion is a real and potentially serious brain injury. It typically results from a blow or jolt to the head that shakes, twists, or deforms the brain inside the victim’s skull. Common concussion causes include:
- Motor vehicle accidents;
- Assault and other violent crime;
- Blows to the head or body while participating in athletics;
- Exposure to explosions and concussive blasts; and
- Being struck on the head by an object.
The movement of the brain inside the skull caused by these incidents may cause lasting damage to brain tissue, blood vessels, and nerve fibers. The damage it causes can, and usually does, disrupt brain function at least temporarily, and sometimes for the long-term.
There’s Nothing Minor About a Concussion
Doctors label concussions as “minor” traumatic brain injuries (mTBIs, for short). If you ask us, that’s an unfortunately-confusing label. By “minor”, doctors mean that a patient displays the least-severe types of indicators of brain injury at the time of diagnosis. Patients, however, tend to hear “minor” and to think no big deal. They’re frequently wrong about that. In fact, there is nothing minor about damaging your brain. A concussion can cause severe difficulty in a victim’s life, including:
- Long-lasting symptoms that interfere with daily life.
- Heightened susceptibility to suffering a second or subsequent concussion, with more severe impacts and symptoms.
- Heightened risk of developing chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative, debilitating brain disease that can feature symptoms similar to those of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
Common Concussion Symptoms
Concussion victims rarely lose consciousness or, if they do, it’s only for a few moments. The absence of brevity of lost consciousness is, in fact, one of the indicators doctors use to diagnose a concussion as compared to a more “severe” TBI. Concussions do, however, exhibit a host of potentially debilitating symptoms, many of which emerge soon after the injury occurs. They include:
- Lack of coordination;
- Memory loss and difficulty with recall;
- Nausea and vomiting;
- Fatigue and/or disrupted sleep;
- Difficulty reasoning or “brain fog”;
- Altered mood or affect;
- Sensitivity to light and sound;
- Ringing in the ears;
- Altered or slowed speech.
Symptoms can come and go, or wax and wane in severity. In some concussion victims, symptoms fade in a week or two. In others, however, they persist as a condition doctors refer to as post-concussion syndrome.
Children and Concussions
Children face particular risks from concussions. To start, they suffer more of them than most other groups, from falls, playing sports, car accidents, and roughhousing. Children also have still-developing brains, making the effects of a concussion less predictable and potentially longer-lasting. Finally, young children in particular may not know how to recognize concussion symptoms, nor the vocabulary to describe them, making concussions diagnosis in kids particularly difficult. In youth sports, at least, a growing awareness of the risks of concussions has led to enhanced protocols to protect young athletes from concussion risks. That is a good start. However, parents must stay vigilant for the subtle signs that a child may have suffered a concussion from a knock on the head while playing with friends or riding a bike (even if the child had a helmet on). The heightened risk of suffering a follow-on concussion once the first occurs makes it especially important to limit children’s activities if necessary to protect their long-term well-being.
How Lawyers Can Help Concussion Victims
As the public becomes increasingly familiar with the risks and dangers of concussions, lawyers will likely play a greater role in helping concussion victims secure compensation for the costs and difficulties they face. Concussions often happen because someone other than the concussion victim made a bad decision or engaged in dangerous, preventable actions. In those cases, the concussion-sufferer may have legal rights to take legal action seeking money damages to help them pay for medical care, therapy, and other forms of support, as well as to compensate them for the challenges of living with concussion symptoms. If your first reaction to hearing that you might have the right to sue someone for causing your or your child’s concussion is that it seems like overkill, we urge you to think it over. As we’ve described above, concussions can have severe long-term physical, emotional, and financial consequences for victims and their families. We all need to start taking concussions more seriously. The legal system has a well-established, important role to play in that process. Lawyers for concussion victims can work to hold individuals, businesses, organizations, and others accountable for causing concussions through wrongful conduct, and in turn, their efforts can lead to a reduction in concussions overall. If you or a loved one suffered a concussion because of someone else’s wrongdoing, contact a skilled brain injury attorney today for a free consultation to learn about your legal rights and options.