Everyone knows bruising or broken bones are a possibility during contact sports, but there’s another potential danger parents need to be aware of when enrolling their children in extracurricular activities. While kids are resilient and tend to bounce back quickly after getting hurt, traumatic brain injuries (TBI) suffered in sports or outdoor activities can lead to permanent disabilities. Because their brains are still developing, children in middle and high school in particular are susceptible to serious brain injuries during youth sports.
Virginia Youth Sports Brain Injury Risks and Prevention
Brain injuries have occurred often enough at school sports events that the Youth Safety Sports Act was passed by the Virginia legislature and signed into law in 2011. The Act requires schools to create policies for handling concussions in young athletes.
Under that law, guidelines have been put in place for educating athletes, coaches, and parents about the dangers of concussions while engaging in contact sports. The law also requires that schools have a system for student-athletes to be screened by a health professional before returning to practice or competing in games.
Concussions and more serious brain injuries can specifically occur if kids are hurt in activities like:
- Rock climbing
Accidents in these types of sports often result in a “closed” head wound like a concussion or a coup-contrecoup injury when the child either falls and hits their head, or when directly physically struck like in the case of tackling. Even though nothing actually penetrates the skull during the accident, the brain still sustains damage by striking the sides of the child’s skull.
The violent motion of a sports accident can also cause tearing of surface brain tissue as it is quickly forced to move in different directions. Children are less likely to experience a penetrating injury where something physically breaks through the skull and enters the brain during a sports event, but that is still a possibility and a strong reason to wear a helmet while playing.
Dealing With Teen Sports Brain Injuries
Seeing a doctor and getting a full checkup immediately after any youth sports injury is important both for diagnosing the problem early and for protecting your child’s ability to recover compensation. Open head wounds in particular are extremely dangerous due to the possibility of post-concussion syndrome, as kids hurt in sports accidents may not immediately realize they have sustained a brain injury.
Visting a doctor quickly helps to establish when and how the injury occurred, as well as what effects it is likely to have on the child’s day-to-day activity. Symptoms can vary wildly depending on the specific type of brain injury sustained as well as the area of the brain that was damaged. Effects frequently change depending on which specific lobe suffered the injury and whether it was on the left or right side, which can have different physical and emotional repercussions.
Potential consequences of sports traumatic brain injuries in young children and teens include:
- Anxiety or depression
- Behavioral and personality changes
- Cognitive impairment
- Dizziness and vertigo
- Drowsiness and fatigue
- Inability to concentrate
- Irritability and difficulty regulating emotions like anger
- Headaches and other chronic pain issues
- Lack of impulse control
- Language, vocabulary, and speaking difficulties
- Light or sound sensitivity
- Memory loss or difficulty forming new memories
- Nausea and vomiting
- Paralysis or coma
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) stemming from the accident
- Vision impairment or loss
Youth brain injuries from sports also have the possibility to develop into Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive degenerative disease often brought on by multiple concussions from repeated blows to the head. Some children who suffer a TBI will require a lifetime of around-the-clock care, but even those with less severe injuries may still require extensive changes to their routine.
Doctor appointments, surgeries, and long-term physical, vocational, and speech therapies are all likely to be necessary. Even in cases of milder symptoms, a TBI can still drastically impact the child’s ability to excel at school or acquire certain types of employment after graduating. It’s critical for young people experiencing serious TBI symptoms to manage their expectations for recovery and find ways to overcome deficiencies through repetitive practice or other techniques.
Sports-related TBIs frequently take a toll on the family as well as the child injured in the accident. Loved ones will need to assist in reducing stress, keeping records, and ensuring appointments are kept. While you’d probably normally handle those duties for your child anyway, in situations of cognitive decline after a TBI you may also need to focus on reducing distractions, maintaining a regular schedule, and finding support groups.
No matter the type of injury or the overall effect on your lives, one of the most crucial ways to help your child is to work with a personal injury lawyer to protect their legal rights and financial future. Between medical and home-care costs, the financial impact of a sports TBI can be devastating.
That’s why your attorney can perform a thorough investigation to determine if the accident could have been avoided. The head wound may have occurred because a coach encouraged overly rough maneuvers, knowingly put injured players in the game, failed to use proper equipment, refused to contact healthcare professionals when a player is hurt, and so on.
The person liable for the brain injury could be the coach or some other official associated with the team, a sports organization or league, the school itself, or even a third party like the manufacturer of faulty sports equipment. With the help of a lawyer, your family can seek a settlement or take the negligent party to court to potentially recover damages like:
- Costs associated with medical treatment for the TBI (ER visit, hospital stay, surgeries, medications, doctor appointments, therapy sessions, etc.)
- Lost future earning potential if your child can’t enter the workforce due to the injury
- Non-economic damages like pain and suffering and reduced quality of life
- Your out-of-pocket costs while seeking medical treatment for the child
Talk to a Traumatic Brain Injury Lawyer
A brain injury may cause major disruptions to an adolescent's future, but an attorney can help protect their financial recovery. Contact us today to set up a free consultation and discuss the sports accident that caused your child’s TBI and find out what steps you should take next.