More children than ever before are participating in sports through their school, church or local recreational league. With childhood obesity levels at an all-time high, sports participation is a great thing. Sports give kids a way to exercise, build friendships, gain confidence and learn to treat others with graciousness even in the face of a loss.

There is a downside, though, to having children involved in sports – particularly contact sports: the risk of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Statistics from the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) show that there has been a 60 percent increase in the rate at which people under the age of 19 suffer TBI from sports or recreational activities since 1999.

Furthermore, the CDC reports that there are an average of more than 2 million emergency roomvisits, hospitalizations and deaths annually from TBI.

What is a TBI?

The term “traumatic brain injury” is fairly self-explanatory. It is when the brain is injured through some sort of trauma. The trauma doesn’t have to involve a direct impact to the head, however, which is something that often leads to missed diagnoses. Even well-trained medical professionals can mistake symptoms of TBI if there is no report of a blow to the head.

The brain can suffer what is known as a contrecoup or coup contrecoup injury – where the brain “bounces” around inside the skull and suffers damage – without any direct impact to the head.

Misconceptions about TBI

People often assume that a head injury isn’t serious if there is no visible sign of harm or if the victim doesn’t end up in the hospital. Unfortunately, this is not the case and often leads to both missed diagnoses and missed opportunities for timely medical intervention. Even a “mild” brain trauma like a concussion can have devastating effects on the victim – particularly if he or she is a youth – that can last for months or years without timely, comprehensive treatment.

Also, not everyone displays the signature signs of a serious head injury (severe headache, loss of consciousness, confusion, dizziness, among others) immediately, another reason why many TBIs go undiagnosed until long after the initial injury date.

Concussions

Concussions in particular have drawn media attention lately due to a myriad of lawsuits filed by football players against the National Football League (NFL) alleging lasting brain damage from repeated hits suffered on the field. Tragic stories like that of Junior Seau, a beloved former player who took his own life in 2012, are bringing the issue of repetitive trauma and its possible long-lasting effects on the brain into the public eye.

Looking for help?

Some traumatic brain injuries, especially in sports, are the result of unforeseeable accidents. Other times, however, they are caused by the negligent actions of others. If you or a loved one suffered a traumatic brain injury under these circumstances, an experienced Missouri personal injury attorney can review your case and discuss your legal rights for pursuing compensation from the responsible parties.