Americans are increasingly aware of the dangers of TBI (traumatic brain injury) associated with impact sports such as football, soccer, and hockey. Fortunately, the risk of TBI is primarily limited to the players themselves; the risk doesn’t usually extend to endangering the athletes’ families and fans.
Brittanie Cecil may be the only fan to be killed at a professional hockey game as a result of a TBI, but she’s undoubtedly not the only person to suffer from a life-threatening, life-changing TBI resulting from sports.
On March 16, 2002, a puck flew over the protective glass separating the players from the crowd during an NHL game. The puck hit Cecil in the temple. Sources report that her injury seemed inconsequential at first, but the puck had caused internal brain swelling, which killed her a few days later.
Traumatic brain injuries are an increasing topic of medical concern and research. In addition, many non-medical people have developed a basic understanding of concussions and Shaken Brain Syndrome. Veterans with TBI returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have heightened public awareness. The prevalence of TBI among veterans has given medical researchers data that has accelerated medical understanding.
TBI is an umbrella diagnosis that incorporates several distinct branches of variant brain injury. TBI can be divided into two specific types at the most fundamental level: open TBI and closed TBI.
Do I have an open or closed TBI?
Open TBI includes any injury that consists of an outside penetration into a patient’s skull. For example, an open TB may occur when a bullet or a knife punctures the skull. Open head injuries may also occur due to industrial accidents, outdoor accidents, falls from height, or accidents at very high speeds.
Open head injuries are very serious but are not always fatal. However, recovery is often slow and incomplete. The consequences of an open head injury may last a lifetime.
Closed TBIs are injuries to the head that do not involve penetration of the skull. The skull remains sealed (‘closed’) from the outside world. Concussions are the most common and well-known form of closed head injury. Closed head injuries result from impact directly to the head or from sudden changes in motion, such as whiplash.
The consequences of a closed head injury vary widely and are often difficult to diagnose or predict. Closed head injuries can be fatal and often result in brain damage due to swelling or internal bleeding.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC), people most commonly receive traumatic brain injuries from falls. Falls lead to approximately half of the TBI-associated hospitalizations in the US. In addition to falls, the CDC identified other significant sources of TBI injuries as firearm-related incidents, vehicle accidents, and assaults.
How are Las Vegas scientists contributing to TBI science?
The University of Las Vegas recently opened the Department of Brain Health under the direction of Jefferson Kinney, chair. The interdisciplinary department identifies sports and auto accidents as two leading causes of TBI in Las Vegas.
The Department of Brain Health is a hub of research surrounding TBI issues and treatment. For example, the department is looking to define an intriguing but elusive connection between TBI and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. The center is also innovating new diagnostic methods.
“If someone has high blood pressure, you can diagnose and give them a drug, and then after some time has passed, you measure it again. If the biomarkers show that it’s no longer high, you’ve taken care of the difficulty,” Kinney explains in a 2019 UNLV article. “But when it comes to determining when a football player can return to the game after experiencing a TBI, it’s an estimation.”
Kinney wants athletes and other victims of TBI to have definitive methods for diagnosing the presence, the severity, and, ultimately, the resolution of TBI. According to Kinney and the other scientist at the Department of Brain Health, the subjective nature of treating TBI needs to be improved.
The Department is also working on identifying TBIs beyond obvious markers related to consciousness. Currently, concussions are often suspected only when there has been a loss of consciousness. Kinney postulates that many potentially damaging TBIs are missed, especially in young children and athletes, because the injuries are not accompanied by the tell-tale ‘blacking out.’
What you hope your accident injury lawyer knows about TBI
A single TBI may dramatically change the trajectory of your life, depending on the severity. Multiple TBIs significantly increase the chance of long-term brain injury.
In Brittanie Cecil’s tragic incident at the NHL game, the puck injury was initially believed to be minor but killed her within days. In other situations, especially situations involving multiple TBIs, the negative impact of brain injuries becomes apparent after months or years. Irreversible brain damage can lead to a steady decrease in cognitive function, increasing bouts of dizziness and confusion, and early death.
Attorneys with little experience with TBIs can unknowingly limit the rightful compensation you or your loved one deserves. Inexperienced attorneys may not consider the long-term needs of clients who suffer from TBIs, including the slow decline and delayed diagnosis often associated with brain injuries.
Your attorney needs to have experience dealing with medical specialists who are up-to-date with TBI neurological findings. You hope your attorney has collegial contacts with doctors specializing in brain surgery and neurology. You hope your attorney considers the combined effects of multiple TBIs and the increased risk of neurodegenerative diseases. You hope your attorney knows that employers and coaches are responsible for pressuring or requiring TBI victims to engage in risky behavior after a suspected injury.
Don’t delay if you or your loved one has suffered a TBI because of negligence. Speak to a qualified traumatic brain injury attorney in Las Vegas today.