In both contact and non-contact sports, professional and amateur athletes alike run the risk of injury. Even with protective gear, sports injuries can have numerous short and long-term effects. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) pose a “serious health concern.” In 2014, there were approximately 2.87 million TBI hospitalizations and deaths in the United States.
What Is a Traumatic Brain Injury?
A traumatic brain injury or TBI is a blow or jolt to the head or a piercing of the skull that disrupts normal brain function. Depending on how much damage the brain sustains, a TBI can cause impact a person’s mental state or consciousness.
TBIs may not be noticeable right away. Symptoms may appear immediately, within a few hours, or could take a few days or weeks after the injury to manifest. A mild injury may cause a minor headache, but in the most devastating cases, a TBI can put a person in a coma or cause death.
Traumatic brain injury symptoms include:
• Slurred speech
• Weakness or numbness in the hands and feet
• Memory problems
• Problems with balance and walking
• Visual disturbances
• Persistent headache
Traumatic Brain Injuries in Athletes
While anyone can sustain a TBI, athletes are at greater risk, and participation in close-contact sports like football or hockey increases the risk further. Nearly four million sports-related TBIs occur each year in the United States. In recent years, such injuries have raised growing concerns about possible long-term effects.
A traumatic brain injury is a broad term for any injury that interferes with the function of the brain due to an impact to the head. Specific TBIs, include:
• Skull fractures
The sports and recreational activities that contribute to the highest number of head injuries in the United States include:
• Water sports
Traumatic Brain Injury in Children
Professional athletes are not the only demographic susceptible to TBIs. Children and teens participating in sports and other close-contact activities are also at risk.
The symptoms of TBIs in kids may appear differently than in adults. Often, they may be unable to communicate or understand what they feel. Symptoms of TBIs in children are:
• Loss of appetite
• Loss of balance or unsteady walking
• Irritability and crying
• Changes in personality or behavior
Legal Liability for Brain Injuries
With millions of sports-related traumatic brain injuries occurring every year, states have enacted laws to help minimize or prevent injuries. For example, Michigan has implemented laws and regulations that require all adults involved in youth athletic programs to take concussion awareness programs, and all youth athletic programs in the state must provide educational materials to youth athletes.
You may have heard the term “assumption of risk,” and the general rule in sports is that the athlete assumes the risk of injury by participating. If you or someone you love suffers a sports-related brain injury, the coach, team, school, or league may argue that the injured party assumed the risk of getting hurt. They may attempt to avoid legal responsibility by claiming that:
• The injured party voluntarily participated in the sport;
• The injury from playing the sport was foreseeable; and
• The injured party knew or should have known the dangers involved in the sport.
While assumption of risk may be a defense against adult athletes, Michigan law is much more stringent in protecting youth athletes. Michigan places a duty on coaches to bench or remove youth players with suspected head injuries sustained during a game. Moreover, coaches must keep injured players out of the current game and future games until a medical professional clears the player.
Coaches, schools, and organizers may be liable for:
• Violating Michigan statutes
• Failing to provide immediate medical attention to the athlete
• Subjecting an injured player to a continuing danger of additional TBIs
Compensation for Traumatic Brain Injuries
When another person’s negligence results in a brain injury, athletes and their families may choose to file a lawsuit for compensation.
A brain injury can have long-term effects that necessitate medical care, therapy, and rehabilitation. The injury may also limit one’s ability to earn a living. A lawsuit can help an injured athlete obtain money for:
• Medical bills
• Continuing medical treatment
• Lost wages and future earning capacity
• Pain and suffering
Hiring a Michigan Brain Injury Attorney
Brain injuries dramatically impact individuals and their families. Choosing the right law firm to handle a TBI lawsuit may be the most important decision you ever make.
For more than four decades, the attorneys at the Michigan-based law firm of Sommers Schwartz have fought for injured people and their families and have won hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation.
Contact Sommers Schwartz to learn how we can help you pursue a claim a sports-related brain injury you or child sustained. Call us today at (800) 783-0989 to schedule a free consultation – the phone call is free, and there is no fee unless we win.