What You Need to Know About Concussions
Tragedy hit the Stringer family of Ottawa on May 12, 2013, when their daughter died as a result of injuries, shortly after being tackled in a high school rugby game. Rowan Stringer, 17, had been complaining of headaches to her friends after being tackled in another game played four days earlier.
In a text exchange with her friend Michelle Hebert leading up to the game on May 8, Rowan said, “what’s some brain damage gonna hurt.” Rowan was showing bags under her eyes, and the two girls had already started looking up concussions online.
But still, Rowan was determined to play. And never saw the need to talk to an adult about her symptoms. To quote her bravado: “Nothing could stop me! Unless I’m dead.”
In the inquest into her death, coroner Mike Moors—a former CFL player himself—said Rowan died from a brain injury death resulting from what’s known as Second Impact Syndrome, where a pre-existing concussion is made worse by a second. Although in Rowan’s case, she may have been suffering the effects of a series of concussions.
The apparent epidemic of concussions
Part of the problem surrounding concussions is that people have dismissed them as trivial. It’s “just a concussion.” Boxers who took one too many blows to the head were laughed off as “punch drunk.”
Even the medical community still use the terms mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) and concussion interchangeably. Yes, it’s trauma. But it’s only mild trauma.
Today, we hear about concussions more and more often, especially when it comes to sports reports. It might lead you to think that concussions are on the rise. Almost as if they’ve gone viral.
But the truth is that head injury concussions have always been a serious matter. And awareness is rising as people realize just how serious these “mild” brain injuries can be.
Long-term effects of concussions
The case of Rowan Stringer is not an isolated incident. Indeed, 22% of student-athletes have reported either losing consciousness or having been admitted to hospital with a head injury. And 39% of Canadian children and youths visiting emergency departments are diagnosed with a concussion.
Suffering multiple concussions can lead to a condition known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Symptoms of CTE include problems thinking straight and controlling mood and behavior. Patients often have thoughts of suicide and may end up taking their lives.
CTE is so common in professional sports that many NFL players have pledged their brains to science after they die. Of 111 brains studied as of 2017, 110 had CTE. Among them were Dave Duerson, Bubba Smith, Ken Stabler and Kevin Turner.
Concussions and many concussion-related disorders don’t show up in X-rays or CT scans. They can only be properly accessed post-mortem.
Concussions—not just a problem for athletes
We’ve talked a lot about athletes so far. But concussions are not just for people who play sports. Anybody with a brain can suffer a concussive brain injury.
You don’t even have to take a blow to the head to injure your brain. All it takes is a good jostling. That’s why one of the two possible Latin roots of the word concussion is concutere—to shake violently.
We see a lot of concussions as the result of auto accidents these days. When your car is forced to stop suddenly, inertia still propels your body forward. And when the seatbelt suddenly stops your body, your brain is still propelled forward, crashing against the inside of your skull.
Concussions can also result from slip and fall accidents as well as bicycle accidents and anything else that results in your head being hit or shaken.
Warning signs of concussion
Every concussion is unique, so there’s no easy way to identify if you have one. If you’ve been involved in an accident where your head has been injured or shaken, you might feel dizzy and have balance problems. You could see double or have blurry vision. Nausea may also be a problem, and you could get sick. You could have a headache, especially one that feels like it has a lot of pressure behind it.
Sensitivity to light and loud noises could be another issue, as could difficulty concentrating and remembering things. This could express itself as confusion. Or maybe you’ll just feel sluggish, hazy, foggy or groggy.
Also, be on the lookout for signs of concussion in other people. This goes double for anyone who has lost consciousness or been knocked out, even if only for just a moment.
Keep an eye out for coordination problems and listen for slurred speech. Are they easily distracted or having problems concentrating? Slow to answer questions or follow directions? Generally confused? Are their moods getting unpredictable? Do they have a blank stare?
Other symptoms to be watch for include:
- problems sleeping
- ringing in the ears
- stiff neck
Seek immediate medical treatment if you suspect you or someone else has had a brain injury. Some concussion symptoms don’t appear for days. Maybe even weeks. It’s vital that you never underestimate the potential impact a concussion can have on your overall health and well-being. Have any potential brain injury properly assessed by a doctor as soon as possible.
Why you should speak with a lawyer about your head injury
If you’ve sustained a head injury as the result of another party’s negligence, you should consult with a reputable personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. Filing a personal injury suit is a time-sensitive matter, and if you delay too long you may not get the compensation you deserve. Retaining a lawyer will help make sure you file within the limitation period and help you meet any other deadlines involved as your case goes forward.
Your lawyer will then negotiate with the defendant’s lawyer (opposing counsel), and all other parties concerned, including insurance company representatives. They’ll gather all the evidence necessary to ensure a successful outcome with your case. Your lawyer will also make sure your case adheres to accepted court procedures should it ever be brought before a judge.
A reputable lawyer will be able to argue your case if your injuries prevent you from attending court or negotiation proceedings. And they’ll be able to advise you if an offer is fair when it comes to negotiating out-of-court settlements.
Today, we honor the Stringer’s terrible loss with Rowan’s Law. The legislation—which went into effect on March 6, 2018—aims to raise awareness about concussions for everyone involved in youth sport in Ontario. It imposes strict guidelines on recovery times, limiting how soon a player can return to the game after a possible brain injury. The law also introduces a new code of conduct aimed at minimizing the number of sports related concussions in the future.
But concussions will still continue to be a major health risk, especially outside the realm protected by Rowan’s Law.
It’s of vital importance you know the warning signs of a concussion. If you’ve been in an injury where you suspect your brain may have been injured, get to the emergency room immediately for a proper diagnosis. And if you’ve received a brain injury due to another party’s negligence, recklessness or carelessness, see a reputable personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.
Have you suffered a head injury?
If you or a loved one has suffered a concussion or any other head injury, whether sports-related or not, due to another party’s negligence, we can help. Mackesy Smye Personal Injury Lawyers have represented many concussion victims in the past.
Our personal injury lawyers know the best course of action to place you in a position to win the maximum compensation possible.
Contact Mackesy Smye today and find out how we can take care of you.