A rise in brain injuries among youth basketball players points to the growing risk and awareness of concussions in all teen sports.
Basketball is among the most popular team sports for young people in South Carolina and throughout the U.S. While it doesn't involve the hard bodily contact of football or the deadly projectiles at play in baseball and softball, a recent study by the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital shows that an average of 375,000 youth basketball players visited an emergency room every year over the past decade for treatment of injuries. The good news is that annual injuries fell 20 percent during the study period. The bad news: traumatic brain injuries have escalated by 70 percent.
The study was based on eleven years of data involving injury victims from ages 5 to 19. One factor behind this troubling trend may be the difficulty in identifying injuries that result from head trauma. As awareness of the latency of brain injuries has increased, so likely has the incidence of injury diagnosis, but the problem is far from solved.
"Many athletes do not recognize the symptoms of concussions or do not report them to coaches and athletic trainers. Educating athletes, coaches and parents to recognize and report on suspected concussions is vital to managing them effectively and helping to prevent future injuries," said Dr. Lara McKenzie, a co-author of the study.
Concussions Can Cause a Lifetime of Problems
The University of Pittsburgh's Sports Medicine Center has closely studied the issue of concussions in high school athletes. More than 10 percent of male and female student participants in a given sport suffer concussions every season, and the dangers of returning to action too quickly after a blow to the head are considerable. The most common immediate effects are confusion, memory loss and disorientation, which are easy to miss if they quickly disappear. But re-injury soon after the first blow can lead to loss of consciousness, long-term memory loss and cognitive problems.
Because of the major risks that head injuries pose to young athletes, the University's researchers have developed a system called Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT), which gages a player's reaction time, memory and brain processing speed. Data is collected at the beginning of a season for easy comparison in the immediate aftermath of a head injury during competition.
Such risks underscore the fact that school administrators, athletic directors and coaches have a serious responsibility to encourage and maintain safe practices to avoid major harm to students. The temptation to nudge a star athlete or key role player back into action for a big game can lead observers to downplay symptoms and roll the dice. But a resulting severe head injury can cause enduring harm for a young person, and lead to a lifetime of unfulfilled potential.
Brain Injuries Give Rise to Complex Issues
Individuals who have suffered a major head injury under any circumstance - from the playing field to a slip and fall to a catastrophic motor vehicle accident - are well advised to seek advice about the full extent of the injury. By anticipating the long-term financial impact of a lingering disability and ongoing medical expenses, an injury victim or family caretakers can seek compensation from negligent parties that will meet their future needs.
Thorough medical examination is the most important response to any head injury, followed by paying close attention to the onset of symptoms. A consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer can provide vital information about legal options and a detailed assessment of the damages an injury victim has suffered. A law firm that represents plaintiffs in injury claims can provide legal services on a contingency basis, meaning that attorney fees are not required unless the party's claim is successful.
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