Concussions and their associated injuries have become a hot-button topic over the last few years, especially in the sporting community, leading to several class-action lawsuits against various sporting organizations and even a blockbuster film starring Will Smith aptly titled Concussion. This seemingly newfound national interest in head injuries comes after a wave of studies that showed that bumps to the head can be much more serious than we previously realized. Up until very recently, most head injuries of the milder variety were thought to be treatable with a nap and painkillers, but, unfortunately, this is not adequate in most cases.
While the effects of concussions and other head injuries can be serious for anyone, they are especially serious for children.
What Is a Concussion?
A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury that is caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head. When this happens, the force of the blow causes the head and brain to move back and forth. This sudden movement can cause the brain to bounce around or twist inside the skull, and the trauma stretches and damages the brain cells and can result in chemical changes. This bouncing around can lead to breaks in the blood-brain barrier, which is the wall that allows beneficial substances to flow in and out of the brain. The brain's response to these breaks is inflammation, which temporarily plugs these gaps, but this inflammation can lead to longer-term damage like chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a gradual deterioration of the brain tissue. Because the scientific study of concussions and their effects is still in its infancy, there may be many more long-term effects of concussions that have yet to be determined.
How are They Caused?
Concussions can be caused by any event that results in a sudden blow to the head, including:
- Falling (especially for children and the elderly)
- Participation in high-contact sports like football, hockey, soccer, rugby, or boxing
- Participation in high-contact sports without proper safety equipment or supervision
- Being involved in an automobile accident
- Being involved in a pedestrian or bicycle accident
- Being a soldier involved in combat
- Being a victim of physical abuse
Although anyone can suffer from a concussion, there are several groups of people who are particularly prone to them. These groups include athletes, the elderly, children, and people who have had a previous concussion. Studies suggest that a history of concussion can actually double or triple the risk of suffering another concussion, especially for athletes, and that each subsequent concussion after the first increases the sufferer's risk of severe symptoms. There is also some data that suggests that women are more susceptible to concussions than men and that some people may be genetically predisposed to concussions due to their brains floating around more in their skulls.
What Are the Symptoms of Concussions?
So how do you know if you have suffered a concussion or just a slight bump to the head? First, a concussion is likely to be the result of a much more serious injury than a simple bump, but there are also tell-tale signs that point to a concussion, including:
- Headache or a feeling of pressure in the head
- Temporary loss of consciousness
- Confusion or a feeling of mental fogginess
- Amnesia surrounding the event
- Dizziness or seeing stars
- Ringing in the ears
- Slurred speech
- Delayed response to questions
- Appearing dazed
A few longer-term symptoms that might show up several hours after the injury include:
- Concentration and memory trouble
- Sensitivity to light and noise
- Sleep disturbances
- Depression and anxiety
- Disorders of taste and smell
Symptoms in Children
While anyone who suffers from a concussion can experience any of these symptoms, concussions are particularly dangerous for infants and toddlers because they often cannot describe how they feel. A child who suffers a concussion is also more likely to develop long-term problems from the concussion, so it is essential that your child receives medical treatment right away. A few clues that your child may have suffered a concussion include:
- Appearing dazed
- Listlessness and tiring easily
- Irritability and crankiness
- Loss of balance and unsteady walking
- Excessive crying
- Change in eating or sleeping patterns
- Lack of interest in favorite toys
Pay close attention to your child's behavior after he or she suffers a bump on the head to determine whether he or she shows any signs of a concussion. If your child exhibits any of the behaviors listed above, it would be a good idea to get them checked out. However, more serious symptoms like vomiting and loss of consciousness require emergency medical attention.
Why They are Particularly Dangerous to Children
Concussions are a serious injury for anyone, but they are particularly serious for children. This is simply because children are more vulnerable to long-term injuries because their brains are still developing. The long-term effects of concussions and other brain injuries can include learning disabilities, communication disabilities, problems with acting out and social inappropriateness, and issues with memory and reasoning. The most important advice for parents of children who have suffered a concussion is that they should be given time to rest and heal. Children who return to school after a concussion may need classroom adjustments, including a lighter course load or a shortened school day. It is also of paramount importance that you give the concussion time to heal before returning to sports or other physical activity. If any activities cause concussion symptoms like headaches, the child should take a break from them and then resume the activity for shorter periods, gradually working back up to pre-concussion levels only when they are completely healed.
Contact a Clearwater Brain Injury Attorney
If you or your child has been injured in an accident and suffered a concussion, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Please contact the Tampa brain injury lawyers at the Dolman Law Group for a free consultation by calling 727-451-6900.