More and more often we are hearing about young athletes as well as college and professional level athletes dealing with concussions, mild traumatic brain injury, and, in some cases, more serious traumatic brain injury. Concussions are the result of a blow to the head; in some cases, the blow might not seem particularly hard, meaning the injured person, parents and coaches might not realize how severe the concussion is. When a concussion is not immediately detected, a relatively mild concussion could potentially result in long-term brain damage.
The CDC concludes that the number of reported concussions has more than doubled over the past ten years, however, this could be due to the fact that there are actually more concussions, or because doctors have an improved ability to identify concussion symptoms. A first concussion can cause serious problems, however a second, third, or subsequent hit to the head following that first concussion can sometimes result in long-term brain damage.
By some statistics, one in five high school athletes may sustain a concussion resulting from a youth sport during any given school year—a truly alarming statistic. High school football causes about half of all reported sports concussions, with at least one-third of those occurring during football practice, rather than during a game. Among high school athletes, soccer and ice hockey follow football as having the largest concussion risk, although high school sports such as gymnastics, cheerleading, basketball, baseball, wrestling, and even swimming can also be responsible for concussions.
What Happens to the Brain Following a Concussion?
There are three primary parts of the brain—the brain stem, the cerebellum, and the cerebrum. Each of these brain systems sends messages to each other, as well as to other parts of the body, and each of these systems is in charge of different things.
The brain is actually fairly well protected by the skull, as well as by shock-absorbing spinal fluid, therefore minor hits to the head—which occur pretty frequently—generally cause no serious problems. When a blow to the head is significant enough to cause the brain to bounce around inside the hard skull, concussions and mild brain injuries can occur.
In other cases, cells and nerves inside the brain could be twisted and stretched, damaging the tissues which typically protect the brain. Once cellular damage has occurred inside the brain, the neurons will stop communicating with one another and the victim can have difficulty thinking, moving and talking.
Do Concussions Resolve on Their Own?
Mild concussions can sometimes resolve on their own within a few weeks, as the stretched brain membranes return to their normal size, resulting in the process pathways of the brain resuming their job. More serious concussions—or subsequent concussions—can cause more problems. Recovery time can lengthen from a minimum of three weeks to seven weeks or longer. When a blow on the head is received (even if you think you are “fine”) you should always have a full neurological exam done. Although a single, minor blow to the head is unlikely to cause permanent damage to the brain even mild concussions can sometimes cause adverse effects which last for weeks, months, or years.
Symptoms of a Concussion
Depending on the severity of the blow to the head, a brief loss of awareness could occur, although many people have a concussion with no immediate symptoms. Confusion and amnesia can occur following a concussion, as well as one or more of the following symptoms:
- Nausea and vomiting;
- Loss of smell
- Loss of taste;
- Balance issues;
- Unusual fatigue;
- Vision and hearing disturbances;
- Chronic headaches;
- Slurred speech;
- Sensitivity to noise and light, and
- Difficulty concentrating.
Difference Between Mild Brain Injury or Concussion and Severe Brain Injury
There are essentially three levels of brain injury—mild, moderate and severe. A mild brain injury or mild concussion can result in temporary mental changes for less than 30 minutes. Symptoms of a mild brain injury can last up to a year and can include depression, fatigue, dizziness, chronic headaches, irritability and memory loss. Concussions are the most common form of mild traumatic brain injury with symptoms which may be delayed or missed by medical professionals.
A moderate brain injury is defined as one which results in unconsciousness for 20 minutes to six hours. A moderate brain injury can leave the victim with cognitive damages as well as difficulty concentrating, confusion, memory loss, and difficulty processing language. Some people with moderate brain injury can also experience problems with vision, hearing, smell, and taste, as well as seizures, chronic pain, and sleep disorders. In some cases, a moderate traumatic brain injury can cause permanent mental and physical disabilities.
Severe traumatic brain injuries can cause a wide range of cognitive, speech, sensory, physical, emotional, and even social problems. Amnesia, slurred speech, paralysis, blurry vision, difficulty concentrating, and severe headaches can also occur. Severe traumatic brain injury can lead to permanent disability or death, and while a person who sustains a severe traumatic brain injury could be unconscious, that person might nonetheless respond to outside influences (such as the pressure of a sharp object). The condition could worsen, however, and the person could slip into a coma. Those who survive a severe traumatic brain injury could find it difficult to ever resume their “old” life and can suffer severe physical, mental and emotional problems for the remainder of their life.
Helping Those Who Have Suffered a Brain Injury
The experienced St. Louis, Missouri concussion injury attorneys at Finney Injury Law have negotiated and litigated many successful personal injury settlements on behalf of their clients who have suffered brain trauma, whether a mild concussion or a severe brain injury. We believe you deserve justice, and our St. Louis traumatic brain injury attorneys have significant levels of experience as well as the necessary skill set to represent our injured clients.
The attorneys at the Finney Injury Law will take the necessary time to explain the process to your simply and thoroughly. Our team will advocate strongly for you because we have a personal investment in each and every case. We will assess every traumatic brain injury case on an individual basis, then we will offer you real options, allowing you to receive a full and fair financial compensation for your severe traumatic brain injury.