Brain Injuries and Concussions: Protecting Victims From Harm in the First Place

Brain Injuries and Concussions: Protecting Victims From Harm in the First Place

Last week, we discussed helmets and how wearing a helmet at work or at play is not a guarantee against traumatic brain injury or concussion. This is not a new issue, the reality is that helmets could do much more in protecting their wearers from harm.

In fact, it’s been over three years since Senator Tom Udall wrote the Federal Trade Commission asking the agency to investigate helmet safety (or the lack thereof) in this country. See, “Senator Calls for Helmet Safety Investigation,” published on January 3, 2011 in the New York Times.

Helmets can be better. Until they are, people who wear and trust helmets for protection while playing sports or doing work on construction sites; or running into burning buildings as a firefighter; or into harm’s way as a soldier, are going to suffer serious and life-altering head injuries.

Football and Brain Injuries

Of course, the focus remains on football head injuries these days. Just this week, a new set of lawsuits have been filed regarding the long-term harm football players face after suffering concussions while playing the game. Six class-action suits were filed against the NCAA by college football players — and this isn’t the first time that the NCAA has been sued for football concussion injuries. An earlier 2011 lawsuit brought by an Eastern Illinois University player was settled back in January 2016.

The reality is that while it’s known that head injuries can result in life-altering harm for football players, the incentive to keep players on the field still outweighs keeping the players safe. Football players at any age from elementary school kids to professional team athletes remain at high risk of concussion and brain injury.

We’ve discussed this before in posts that include:


When will steps be taken to protect football players from a permanent and life-altering injury before they are hurt in the first place?

School Soccer and Brain Injuries

It’s not just football that should be the focus, of course. Other sports are also dangerous for head injuries — and some are dangerous because of the lack of head gear instead of the helmet that is being worn.

An example: school soccer players, including schoolgirls and young women, who can suffer serious head injuries and concussions while playing soccer without a helmet.

We’ve written about this concern and warned parents of this risk. Now, at least in some parts of our community, steps are being taken to try and protect soccer players from serious head injuries on the field.

Last week, the Chicago Tribune reported on how Libertyville’s soccer coach has seen a real change in how head injuries are monitored in the girls’ soccer program at Libertyville. Over the past few years, an increased awareness of the risk of concussion and how subtle its initial symptoms can be has changed the way that this coach deals with a player who might have a head injury. If there’s a chance of injury, the soccer player doesn’t return to the field.

However, monitoring kids for harm after the fact is a different thing from protecting these players from being hurt in the first place.

Playground Accidents and Head Injuries

The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (part of the CDC) has studied children under the age of 14 years who have presented to an emergency room in this country for suspected brain injuries. For almost a decade, data was collected and now the results of the study have been published in the May 2016 issue of the Pediatrics Medical Journal.

The news isn’t good. According to this new study, more and more children are being taken for emergency medical treatment after a playground accident and diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury. Half of these kids were between the ages of 5 and 9 years, and most of the victims were hurt while playing on the monkey bars or the swings.

Of course, the question being asked now is whether or not more kids are now playing on the playground and that’s the reason for the rise in child TBI or if parents, teachers, and doctors are more aware of the chance that a small child has suffered a serious brain injury or concussion.

What’s really needed, of course, is a discussion on how best to protect kids at play in the school playground from being hurt in the first place.

It’s wonderful that more people, especially parents and coaches, are becoming more and more aware of the high risk of brain injury and concussion and how these kinds of brain injuries are not always readily apparent. Early diagnosis and prompt treatment can be vital for the long-term prognosis of a brain injury victim.

Nevertheless, when will we learn of steps that have been taken to block the victim from being hurt? It’s one thing to minimize injury, it’s another to stop the injury from happening. Surely more can be done to protect our loved ones. More on this in our next post. Be careful out there!

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