This week, the Chicago personal injury lawyers of Passen & Powell continue our month-long discussion of traumatic and non-traumatic brain injury in connection with national Brain Injury Awareness Month. Today we take a closer look at concussions, a typically mild form of traumatic brain injury that has drawn the focus of many Chicagoans thanks to the recent injury to Brent Seabrook of the Chicago Blackhawks.
Concussion is a form of traumatic brain injury, or TBI, a topic discussed in some of this month’s earlier articles. TBI is a major health issue in Illinois and the rest of the United States, as recognized by the Center for Disease Control in its recent concussion awareness campaign. TBI can cause death and permanent disability, and affects an average of 1.7 million victims annually.
TBIs, including concussions, are caused by injury to the head, such as a blow, bump, or fall, which interferes with the brain’s normal functions. The single most common form of TBI is concussion. Like other TBIs, concussions are commonly caused by falls, motor vehicle accidents, and being struck by or against an object. Although potentially extremely serious, particularly if ignored or improperly treated, concussions are generally considered a “mild” form of TBI (one which is usually not life-threatening), and often cause only a brief change in brain activity or loss of consciousness.
However, although most people who suffer a concussion make a full and speedy recovery, some victims experience symptoms that last weeks, months, or longer. This is particularly true among the elderly, young children, and teenagers. Also at risk for longer recoveries and complications are those who have had previous concussions, particularly if those previous incidents are relatively recent.
If you or someone you know falls, or sustains a serious blow to the head, it is important to know the symptoms of a concussion so that proper action can be taken. The major types of concussive symptoms are:
• Dizziness or trouble balancing
• Fuzzy or double vision
• Sensitivity to light or noise
• Trouble remembering or concentrating
It is important to note that some or all of these symptoms may be missed by family members, coaches, or even doctors, and may appear days or months after the injury. If you notice these symptoms, even some time after an injury to the head, you should seek medical attention. A doctor may order a CAT scan or MRI to see whether there is evidence of a more serious brain injury. If left undetected and untreated, a mild concussion may develop into a permanent, life-threatening brain injury and lead to an inter-cranial hemorrhage, subdural hematoma, or another form of permanent severe brain injury.
If you believe that a brain injury to someone you love was caused by the negligence or recklessness of another, or were made worse by a failure to properly address or treat the injury, you may have a cause of action. An experienced Chicago brain injury lawyer can investigate and analyze your situation, and help you decide how to proceed.
Complications from a concussion may result in serious consequences, such as permanent disability or death, particularly if the concussion is not handled properly. Adults who have sustained a concussion, or an injury that could result in a concussion, should seek immediate medical attention if they experience slurred speech, ongoing vomiting or nausea, weakness, numbness, or a loss of coordination, or a headache that increases or does not go away. It is even more critical that children who sustain concussions receive immediate medical attention — as their brains are still developing. Adults should seek medical attention if they exhibit any of the following danger signs:
• Any loss of consciousness, however brief
• Uneven pupils (the black circle in the center of one eye is bigger than the other)
• Inability to recognize familiar people or places
• Confusion or agitation
• Convulsions or seizures
• Other unusual behavior.
In babies and children, immediate medical attention is warranted if any of the adult danger signs are present, if the child continues to cry and cannot be comforted, or if the child refuses to nurse or eat. If you have concerns that your baby or child continues to experience signs of brain damage that you believe was caused by negligence during birth or during childhood, seek medical attention immediately. Then contact one of our Chicago personal injury attorneys to investigate whether a viable cause of action exists.
Professional athletes such as Brent Seabrook often are expected to receive injuries, including concussions, and return to their duties days, hours, or even minutes after suffering a concussion. It is highly improper, however, for others, particularly child and teen athletes, to follow their example. Seabrook himself suffered his second concussion of the season, including loss of consciousness, on Wednesday, but returned to practice just two days later. Additionally, much attention has been paid recently to the poor example set by the NFL in its failure to use inexpensive new concussion prevention equipment, and its cavalier response to concussions when they occur.
In spite of this poor example, medical personnel and coaches supervising children and teens must be trained to prevent concussions and respond properly when they occur. Especially critical is that others, especially those in roles of authority (such as coaches) never encourage an athlete who has suffered a blow to the head to return to play. It is also crucial that athletes consistently wear proper protection, including helmets, padding, and mouth guards. The CDC recommends that all leagues, schools, and districts develop a concussion policy, and suggests a policy requiring that any athlete who suffers a concussion be immediately removed from play for the day, and until cleared by a health professional. Some school districts particularly concerned with safety perform baseline tests of brain function (called neurocognitive tests), which can be used if an athlete suffers a concussion to analyze the severity and effects of the injury.
If you or your child has suffered a concussion that could have been prevented through proper care, or has suffered complications or permanent injury from the failure to properly respond to a concussion, you may have a legal claim. A top Chicago TBI attorney will conduct a thorough factual investigation to determine the cause of you or your child’s injuries, and analyze the law to identify all possible causes of action and viable defendants.
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago personal injury lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.