Thousands of former NFL players filed a class action lawsuit against the NFL for failing to disclose the dangers of concussions. Concussions are head injuries that could lead to serious health implications with repeated head trauma. A settlement was reached in which the NFL will pay up to $5 million to each retired player with a history of repeated head trauma who took part in the class action lawsuit.
Due to the high profile of this case (and others) medical researchers, parents, schools, youth leagues, and coaches are more concerned about sports-related concussions than ever before. Here's why and what you, as the parent of a high school football player, need to know about concussions.
Concussions happen more often during practices
Youth who get a concussion during a game or practice should not participate at all until they get clearance from a doctor. Unfortunately, the problem with this is that there typically aren't any medical professionals along the sidelines during practice to determine if a child has gotten a concussion, even though 57.7% of all high school football concussions occur during practice.
Find out if your child's school's athletic director and/or physical therapist are on the school grounds and readily available during practices. If not, you and other parents should ask the school board to change their policies regarding this matter. Hire a personal injury attorney to help if your efforts don't go anywhere. He or she can present your case with statistics and a list of legal liability issues the school board won't be able to easily ignore.
What should happen when a concussion is suspected
When an athletic director checks a player out on the field to see if they may have gotten a concussion, they typically will ask a few simple questions to see if the player answers appropriately. They will also shine a flashlight into their eyes to see if the pupils adjust to the light and to determine if the gaze is steady. If not, then the athletic director should not allow the player to return to play until after the player has been cleared by a physician. Most often, the parents will be notified to take the player to the ER for evaluation.
The ER staff should order a CT scan, even though CT scans do not show evidence of a concussion. CT scans are ordered to rule out other medical problems that could be causing symptoms or medical problems that could be worsened by a concussion, such as hydrocephalus, which is more common known as water on the brain. If the medical staff does not follow through on these basics, you may be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit, especially if the physician clears your child to return to football before they are ready.
Risk of returning too soon – second impact syndrome
The reason it is crucially important to determine whether or not someone got a concussion is because of the severe risks of getting another concussion on top of the original one. If someone with a concussion is allowed to continue to participate, or a concussion is not identified, the risks of severe brain damage and/or death are higher with a subsequent trauma to the head before the first one has had a chance to heal. This is called second impact syndrome.
If you suspect your football player has gotten a concussion, ask the coach and athletic director to evaluate him or her before you allow any more time on the field. It is their responsibility to ensure your child does not get unnecessarily injured while on the field. Breaching this duty of care could result in serious head injuries from concussions.