Even a minor brain injury has the potential to completely change the course of a person’s life. While sport-related injuries rarely result in fatalities, sports and other recreational activities account for a significant number of traumatic brain injuries – especially among those between the ages of five and 19.
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, approximately 46,000 children and teens are diagnosed with concussions in emergency departments every year. The majority of these injuries occur while participating in a sport. While it’s common to associate brain injuries with hockey, there are a number of sports that can pose a risk to players. If you or a family member participates in sports, it’s crucial to understand what the risks are for sustaining a brain injury, and what can be done to reduce the chance of getting hurt.
The Most Common Sports-Related Brain Injuries
A traumatic brain injury refers to a blow or jolt to the head the disrupts the normal function of the brain. An injury like this can occur when the head suddenly and forcefully hits an object, or an object pierces the skull. Depending on the extent of the damage, the injury can be labeled mild, moderate, or severe.
The most common brain injury in sports is a concussion. A concussion is usually caused by a direct blow to the head, face, or neck. Neurological impairment is possible, but it might only last for a few seconds. In some cases, however, symptoms may evolve over the course of minutes or hours. While concussions are typically treated with rest for 24 to 48 hours, followed by a gradual return to normal activities, repetitive head injuries can result in worse conditions.
Someone who has sustained multiple concussions may be diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy. This is a progressive, degenerative disease that can cause depression, control disorders, violent actions, and suicide attempts.
Another type of brain injury is an acute subdural hematoma. This is a blood clot that forms between the dura matter and the surface of the brain. Someone with this condition may experience headaches, confusion, vomiting, and slurred speech. While mild and moderate injuries may only need to be monitored, severe injuries often require surgery.
Top Sporting Activities Associated with Concussions
As mentioned, the majority of sports-related head injuries come from playing hockey. But other athletes could find themselves in just as much danger of getting hurt. The other sporting activities that frequently result in concussions include football, rugby, cycling, ringette, and skiing. According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, males are more likely to sustain a concussion and the highest proportion of injuries is among ten to 14-year-olds.
Football and rugby can be physically taxing. While both sports involve protective gear like helmets, coaches don’t always mandate them for practices – which is when injuries are most likely to occur. Women are most likely to sustain a concussion while playing ringette. Cycling and skiing present similar dangers for participants because of the fast speeds and the possibility of colliding with an object. While helmets significantly reduce the risk of a serious brain injury, they are not always protective enough to prevent a concussion.
How to Reduce the Risk of Concussions
There are steps coaches, parents, and athletes can take to reduce the instances of brain injuries while playing sports. The first step involves education. It’s estimated that one in two Canadians have little or no knowledge about concussions, and one in four do not know how to treat the minor brain injury. The Government of Canada has a number of evidence-based tools anyone can access to educate themselves on the dangers of concussions and how to prevent them.
In addition to that, it’s crucial for athletes to be aware of the game rules and practice good sportsmanship. If players become aggressive when frustrated on the field, they’re more likely to make illegal contacts. Checking, tackling, or colliding with an opponent who is not braced for the impact is likely to cause an injury.
Finally, teams should provide quality protective gear and have a concussion action plan in place. If an athlete believes they have a concussion, they should stop playing immediately and seek medical attention. Doing so will reduce the risk of suffering from serious complications.
Even if steps are taken to reduce the risk of harm, brain injuries like concussions or worse are a real possibility while participating in sports or other recreational activities. If you believe you or a loved one has suffered a sports-related brain injury that should have been prevented, you may be able to take legal action. At Wishart Brain & Spine Law, our lawyers are dedicated to investigating events involving brain injuries and determining how we can help our clients recover. Contact us for more information.
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