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Much has been written about the dangers of contact sports and the effects that physical injuries sustained in our youth can have on our bodies for a lifetime.  Most adults do not need to read the medical literature to know about these risks. They need only listen to their creaky knees, sore/stiff shoulders and elbows or chronic back pain. These are the adult manifestations of physical injuries sustained in those glory days.  But perhaps the greatest impact for some may be caused by undetectable injuries with great psychological impact from repetitive head trauma that is common place in contact sports. Concussions.  "Getting your bell rung" or "knocked silly" on the field of battle is a right of passage in football, hockey, wrestling, and boxing. But concussions can occur in many other sports and activities - skiing, skate boarding, biking, and cheerleading for example.

Recent studies have discovered a condition (chronic traumatic encephalopathy CTE) that is as real as the rush any athlete feels from competing in a sport that he/she loves. Scientists are just discovering the cause(s) and effect(s) of this condition but the initial evidence is compelling and disconcerting. The post mortem study of  brain tissue from individuals that competed in contact sports have shown real damage to cell tissue which cannot presently be diagnosed in living tissue and cannot be explained by any other disease process. CTE is suspected to lead to depression and compromised brain function and the scientists who are studying this condition believe that the link to repetitive head trauma is undeniable.

Experts warn that this condition is not limited to collegiate or professional athletes but that evidence of the condition (CTE) has also been found in the brain tissue of teens. One problem thought to lead to CTE is the manner in which injured players are treated - or not treated post injury. Unlike detectable physical injuries (i.e., a fractured bone, a laceration requiring stitches or a torn ligament), brain injuries are diagnosed by subjective standards and not objective testing (i.e., xray, MRI, CT Scan). As a result, athletes are often sent back into competition before their brain has had a chance to heal. It is not known how much this plays into the development of CTE but it is believed to be a factor. We know that an athlete would never be allowed to return to a game after fracturing a bone until the injury was given the appropriate time to mend.

Protocols for head trauma are being reconsidered. Safety equipment and rules are being discussed in an attempt to limit head trauma. In the meantime, head trauma is a part of many sports and cannot be eliminated. The point of this blog article is to bring further awareness to this problem and to urge parents, players and coaches to take these injuries more seriously.

At NR&S we represent hundreds of clients each year who sustain concussions or head trauma in auto accidents and work place injuries. We are staying on top of the science in this area to best represent our client's interests.

If you'd like to learn more about the science of CTE, take a look at this video report or pick up a copy of Rolling Stone (January 31, 2013 edition) which has an excellent article on the subject.

The State of Ohio has enacted a new law designed to educate the public and protect children who sustain head injuries while competing in youth sports.  The new law will go into effect April 26, 2013 and it specifies that coaches, officials, and referees must complete a 20 minute course every three years designed to assist in the recognition and treatment of concussions sustained by student athletes.  The new law also requires the State of Ohio, Department of Health to create a Concussion Informational Sheet which has been completed.   A copy of this data sheet can be viewed at http://www.oysan.org/Assets/Concussion+2013/Concussion+Info+Sheet.pdf.  Most importantly, Ohio House Bill 143 requires that a player who sustains a concussion must have written permission from a health care provider before the student athlete can return to play.

Much has been learned about concussions in recent years by the medical community.  Much still remains unknown.  By the enactment of  HB 143, the State of Ohio has taken a proactive approach which we at NR&S applaud.

My son Kyle started ice skating when he was about three years old and started playing hockey when he was four. At that age, there is no hitting or checking its just kids having fun skating around and harmlessly falling on the ice. As he got older, and his hockey skills got better he began to play in some advanced leagues and the hitting began and the falls became a little less harmless. Kyle was very lucky through the years, as some of his teammates sustained broken bones and bloody noses, Kyle skated through without any significant injuries. All that changed at a tournament in Pittsburgh three years ago.

Kyle had just dumped the puck in the opposing team's zone and was skating to the bench at the end of his shift, when a player from the Pittsburgh team hit Kyle from behind. It was an illegal hit, and the Pittsburgh player was penalized but the force of the hit knocked Kyle into the boards and he hit his head. I was in the stands and I was scared to death as I saw my son laying on the ice motionless. When I got down to the ice to see him, he was completely in a daze. He did not know who I was, he did not remember that he had two sisters, he did not know his mom's name, he did not know where he was, he did not know what day it was, he wasn't even sure of his name. The paramedics came, put a hard plastic collar around his neck, completely immobilized his head and took him off the ice on a stretcher. We went to the hospital in the ambulance and during the ride Kyle  had a hard time recalling anything that had happened. At the hospital, the doctors did a number of tests and Kyle had to lay motionless on a table for about 5 hours before he was released.

The next day when we got back to Cleveland, Kyle was seen by a neurologist at the Cleveland Clinic, luckily the CT Scans did not show that he had any bleeding in the brain. The doctor said that Kyle had sustained a grade 3 concussion and was not allowed back on the ice for 6 weeks. He had to wear a hard collar at school and keep his head as still as possible. He had really bad headaches and felt dizzy for a number of weeks. After about 5 weeks had passed, he started to feel better. After 6 weeks he was able to get back on the ice, but he was only allowed to skate, he was not allowed to play in any games or have any contact at practice. It was just strictly skating. The doctor told us that if he sustained another concussion he would have to stop playing hockey completely. The doctor explained that a second concussion may not cause long term effects but a third certainly would. He would have to stop playing completely if he sustained a second concussion because a third could be devastating and affect him for the rest of his life.

Thankfully, Kyle has been able to resume playing the sport he loves without any other injuries or incidents and he he is looking forward to a big year with his high school team, but every time he is on the ice I remember that night in Pittsburgh, and I also think about  when I was his age and I was playing sports how concussions weren't really considered that serious. I remember coaches putting kids  back into games just a few minutes after they came out of a game dazed and confused. Back then, the coaches didn't know, the parents didn't know and the doctors probably didn't know how life changing concussions can be. We know now that concussions need to be taken seriously and that multiple concussions can have long term effects.

Evidence is growing that any hit to the head — from a car accident or a sports injury — can prove devastating in later life.

In autumn of 2013, the National Football League (NFL) settled a class action suit brought by players who alleged the league knew far more than it shared about the neurological danger of concussion. In early 2014, a federal judge rejected the settlement as insufficient to treat the thousands of parties to the action.

Also in early 2014, research revealed a diagnosis of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in Ryan Freel, a deceased major league football player and Patrick Grange, a deceased soccer player. Mr. Freel suffered several concussions in his career before taking his life at 36. Mr. Grange, who died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) at 29, suffered only one major concussion but was a skilled header, a player who hit the soccer ball using his head.

Current research tells us that clues to the development of CTE include the following:

Force or trauma to the brain causes changes in the ventricular system of the brain. The four ventricles in the brain contain cerebrospinal fluid that protects the brain and aids in biological signaling.
There is no known safe level or quantity of brain trauma. The damage of subconcussive trauma, or an injury not severe enough to cause loss of consciousness, may not appear in diagnostic imaging studies, but is registered in the altered function of brain tissue.
As changes to the ventricle system progress, brain anatomy transforms. In addition to permanently altering emotional and physical function, diffuse plaque deposits form in the brain, a trademark of the presence of CTE during autopsy.

Given the immaturity of brain structures, recent studies suggest athletes who suffer concussion at younger ages are at higher risk for degenerative brain disorders as they age.

No concussion is minor. If you or a loved one are injured in an accident on or off the sports field, speak with an experienced injury attorney in Cleveland.

In 2012, retired football players filed a lawsuit against the National Football League (NFL) alleging that the organization concealed risks of brain injury. The players argue that the league did not do enough to protect them from concussions sustained during thousands of tackles. Plaintiffs have also placed fault on the football helmet manufacturer Riddell for glorifying football violence. To date, more than 4,500 players have joined the lawsuits.

Following their lead, almost two-dozen retired hockey players have filed lawsuits in federal courts in the District of Columbia, New York City and Minneapolis against the National Hockey League (NHL). The athletes assert that they suffered permanent brain damage in their jobs because of negligence on the part of the governing organizations. The plaintiffs claim that the NHL concealed or minimized the risks of concussion.

Sports-related head injuries can cause a wide range of medical conditions, including:

  • Chronic headaches
  • Memory loss
  • Depression
  • Cognitive difficulties
  • Irritability
  • Personality changes
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Dementia
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Parkinson's disease

Lawyers for the NHL players have paid careful attention to the NFL lawsuits. For example, the NFL argued that the claims resolutions are controlled by the collective bargaining agreement, which requires disputes be settled through arbitration, not trial. Both leagues face resistance from their insurance carriers because the negligence and fraud alleged by players fall outside their policy coverage.

The NFL offered football players a settlement of $765 million dollars. A judge and several players have expressed concerns about whether this is enough to cover the players’ medical expenses for the rest of their lives. The NHL can expect similar opposition to any settlement it proposes.

The professional hockey and football league lawsuits have drawn attention to the lifelong consequences of sports injuries. If you or your loved one has suffered a sports-related injury, it is important to discuss your legal options with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Northeast Ohio.

Traumatic head and brain injuries can occur as a result of many different types of accidents, such as car crashes, sports injuries, work injuries, and slip and fall accidents. Symptoms of a head injury, concussion or other type of brain trauma may include dizziness, clouded thinking, headaches—and in some cases, brief loss of consciousness.

Still, the effects of these types of injuries are not always immediately apparent. Someone may experience an accident involving head trauma and feel relatively fine. Yet is it extremely important that he or she seek medical attention as soon as possible to determine what, if any, injuries were suffered. This is true in the case of many injuries – but it is particularly true with head injuries and concussions. If they are not properly treated, the condition can become more severe with time and cause serious, life-changing problems.

Medical experts categorize concussions under three distinct headings:

Traumatic brain injuries may manifest as a number of different conditions, from seizures and contusions to hematomas, memory loss and more. As mentioned earlier, brain injuries may end up being life-changing events. Victims may require assistance performing daily tasks indefinitely—even for the rest of their lives.

Financial burdens often accompany head injury trauma

Traumatic head injuries, including concussions, can have profound physical effects. They also can prevent a victim from performing the duties of their job—both in the short term, and possibly even longer. That, in turn, can significantly affect the personal finances of the victim and/or their family. Even if you continue to try and grasp the physical implications that a concussion or head injury may have to you or a loved one, the financial burden of the accident will most likely be apparent before long. Concussion, head and brain injuries can generate huge medical bills, and they can cause lost current and future wages, reduced earning potential, emotional trauma, and diminished quality of life following the accident.

Many accidents that result in head and brain trauma are caused by reckless, negligent or intentional conduct of others. When wrongful conduct is the cause of traumatic head and brain injuries, victims and their loved ones deserve compensation for their physical and emotional suffering.

Therefore, if you have suffered a head injury, you should seek immediate medical assistance, your condition should be monitored closely by a doctor, and you should follow all instructions that your doctor gives you.

We also recommend contacting an experienced concussion/traumatic head injury attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney will work with your physician or other medical specialists to determine the extent of the head injury, as well as the subsequent medical care and rehabilitation services you will need.

An experienced concussion/traumatic head injury attorney will also carefully document the negligence or other actions of the party or parties who were responsible for the accident. In turn, they will work to calculate the full amount of your economic and noneconomic losses—and then work aggressively on your behalf to obtain the compensation you deserve.

No Cost Concussion Victim Evaluation

At Nager, Romaine & Schneiberg Co., L.P.A., our concussion and head injury attorneys may be able to help you pursue compensation for the pain and suffering that you have been forced to endure. The experienced concussion and head injury lawyers of NRS have handled a variety of concussion, head injury and traumatic brain injury cases over many years; we are highly knowledgeable regarding the complexities of these cases and we offer the personalized service that concussion and head injury victims deserve. We will aggressively pursue your case and work to help you obtain the medical care and compensation you need to rebuild your life.

In the event you or a loved one sustain a concussion or head-injury, contact the Ohio concussion and head injury attorneys at NRS Injury Law by filling out our No-Risk Consultation form, or call (855) GOT-HURT and speak with one of our trained staff members.

All team sports carry some risk of injury. Yet American football is certainly among the most injury-prone sport played here in the U.S. Each year, countless football injuries – from knee and ankle injuries to shoulder separations, lacerations, contusions and more – occur on high school and college football fields. Yet head injuries, including concussions, have drawn the most attention lately—and for good reason.

Once shrugged off as simply an unfortunate byproduct of the violence and culture of football – “He got his bell rung; he’ll be alright…” – football-related concussions are no laughing matter. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that the amount of reported concussions has doubled in the last 10 years. Likewise, the American Academy of Pediatrics has reported that emergency room visits for concussions in kids ages eight to 13 years old has doubled, while in the last decade alone, concussions have risen 200 percent among teens ages 14 to 19.

According to headcasecompany.com, high school football accounts for 47 percent of all reported sports concussions, with 33 percent of concussions occurring during practice. After football, ice hockey and soccer pose the most significant head health risk.

Head impacts and concussions caused by contact sports are a growing epidemic among young athletes. When left undetected, concussions can result in long-term brain damage and may even prove fatal. Professional football has worked to address player safety in recent years, and so too have high schools and colleges. Today, many established head injury procedures and protocols apply before, during and after football games. These are designed to identify concussion-related symptoms on the spot, and when necessary, prevent student athletes from re-entering the field of play until cleared to do so by medical personnel.

Consider a hypothetical example: Johnny, a wide receiver on the varsity football squad, sustains a helmet-to-helmet collision with another player, then falls to the ground and briefly loses consciousness. After trainers revive him and get him to his feet, Johnny is visibly woozy and needs help getting off the field.

In this case, all signs point to head trauma, and assuming head injury protocols are in place, trainers and the team’s medical staff initiate these protocols. The team and its personnel are now doing what they’re bound to do.

Still, procedures and protocols are not fail-safe. Football games (and other team sports as well) are fast-paced, dynamic events with many activities all occurring either at once, or in rapid succession. While today’s concussion protocols do work to varying degrees, some student athletes find their way back onto fields of play with concussion-like symptoms.

In an alternate scenario, let’s suppose Johnny gets to the sideline, then tells his coach and the trainers he feels fine. For whatever reason, the coach lets him back in the game a few plays later without having Johnny undergo concussion protocols. In this case, the protocols were not followed, despite obvious signs that a head injury was entirely possible. Consequently, the team personnel and school district could be held potentially liable for Johnny’s pain and suffering.

When head injuries occur, and policies and procedures aren’t followed correctly by coaches, staffs and school officials – or worse, when they’re not even in place – legal implications can come into play. Moreover, those injuries can permanent long-term brain damage if second or even third head impacts occur. In fact, cumulative sports concussions are shown to increase the likelihood of catastrophic head injury leading to permanent neurologic disability by 39 percent.

In cases where (1) policies and protocols were not followed properly by school and medical officials, or (2) such policies were not in place when a concussion or head injury occurred, victims and their loved ones may be entitled to compensation for their pain and suffering as a result of negligence that may have occurred.

No Cost Evaluation

If you, a family member or a friend sustained a concussion or head injury while playing football or another school-sponsored team sport, your rights are at stake—you need to seek immediate legal advice. At Nager, Romaine & Schneiberg Co., L.P.A., our head injury attorneys may be able to help you pursue compensation for the pain and suffering that you have been forced to endure. The experienced head injury lawyers of NRS have handled a variety of head injury cases over many years; we fight side by side with injured victims to make sure they and their families receive compensation for negligence that caused them to be hurt. We will aggressively pursue your case and work to help you obtain the medical care and compensation you need to rebuild your life.

In the event you or a loved one sustain a concussion or head injury, contact the head injury attorneys at NRS Injury Law by filling out our No-Risk Consultation form, or call (855) GOT-HURT and speak with one of our trained staff members.

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