We have all heard of the NFL lawsuits for dementia caused by chronic concussions. No one questions the idea that large men hurling themselves into each other at large speeds could cause a head injury. But it might surprise you to learn that the highest number of concussions in female athletes is soccer. I have a friend whose middle school child has already had several concussions from soccer.
The Center for Disease Control reports that from 2001-2009, concussions among youth increased 60%, leading the agency to label concussion frequency as reaching “epidemic” proportions. 70.5% of sports-related emergency visits for traumatic brain injuries were among youth aged 10 – 19.
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a fancy term for dementia caused by multiple concussions. Researchers believe the concussions are caused by the development of Tao protein that basically inhibits the brain from communicating with itself… like a road block. It is a terrible condition that causes Alzheimer type symptoms and eventually death. The symptoms can include memory loss, speech loss, personality changes, depression, etc. Unfortunately, my father has CTE from his college football days. In the sixties you were told to “shake it off” when you “got your bell rung” according to my dad, when he could still speak. It is his symptoms that have inspired me sue those who tell our children to “shake it off”.
Up until this past fall, there was only one way to determine whether someone had chronic traumatic encephalopathy. You had to biopsy the brain; i.e. post mortem. This is why Junior Seau shot himself in the chest when his doctors suspected CTE. He wanted the NFL to know what was happening and preserved his brain for biopsy. His family has now filed a wrongful death claim. Since, Junior Seau’s and others deaths, the ability to find CTE while the player is alive has changed. In the fall, studies at UCLA have developed a brain scan that can find the TAO Protein. (See my website: firstname.lastname@example.org under football injuries)
So what about our youth? 43 States have passed Legislation to protect the youth athletes. Tennessee is not one of them, yet. However, the Tennessee Legislature has finally written and passed Senate Bill 882. It will now be sent to Governor Haslam’s desk for signature. It is Legislation designed to protect student athletes who suffer concussions from risking further medical complications. In part, the Bill makes the following changes to our youth athletic activities:
-Requires coaches, volunteers, and team medical providers to complete a “concussion recognition and head injury safety education course” program. (which will be on the Department of Health website free of charge)
-Requires schools and organizations to have a policy of removing youth who show signs of concussions from activity for medical evaluation.
-Requires a doctor trained in concussions to provide written clearance to return to the activity.
This is a good and important step towards a safer future for our children. Even so, I am hopeful for more studies, treatment, and a cure for CTE.
Constance Mann, Attorney
The Law Offices of Constance Mann