North Carolina Sports Brain Injury Lawyer

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Sports and recreational activities account for around 10 percent of the traumatic brain injuries, or TBIs, that occur annually in the US. Concussion, a common type of TBI, is caused by a blow to the head or a jolt that might happen while playing a sport. The CDC estimates that about 3.8 million people suffer a concussion from sport-related activity yearly, and between 5 and 10 percent of athletes will suffer a concussion each sports season.

In recent years, doctors and athletes alike have become concerned about the risk of Chronic Traumatic Encelphalopathy (CTE), a degenerative condition brought on by repeated head injuries. It is currently only diagnosed during autopsies, except for a few cases of living patients who are considered high-risk due to multiple head injuries. Evidence of CTE is often found in professional athletes who played contact sports, including football and boxing. Fortunately, a single incidence of head injury is not believed to be a risk factor for CTE.

Which Sports Are Most Likely to Result in a Head Injury?

Data from 2018 identifies bicycling as the sport that causes the most head injuries – 64,411 cases were treated in US emergency rooms that year. This may surprise some people who believe football is the most dangerous sport with regard to head injuries, but it comes in second place with 51,892 emergency room cases in 2018. Other sports associated with a high risk of head injuries included baseball/softball (24,516 ER visits in 2018), basketball (38,898 ER visits), general exercise and equipment (37,045 ER visits), and soccer (26,965).

For children 14 and younger, football, basketball, and cycling are the three most common causes of sports injuries (not counting playground accidents).

How Can You Prevent Sports-Related Head Injuries?

It depends on the specific sport you play, but for most activities, purchasing a well-made, securely-fitting helmet and wearing it every time you play the sport is the best way to reduce risk. Before visiting the store, search the internet for evidence-based information on choosing a helmet for your sport, such as this Consumer Reports guide to selecting a bicycle helmet or the CDC’s recommendations for finding the right football helmet. These guides will include advice on ensuring the helmet fits correctly, which is important because a poorly-fitting helmet may not provide optimal protection.

Tip: Remember that if you receive a blow to the head, you should replace your helmet immediately because absorbing the force of the impact can break down the materials that protect you.

Why Should You Consult a Sports Brain Injury Attorney?

If you or a loved one have suffered a sports brain injury, recovery may be a slow and costly process. Depending on the nature of the injury, you could recover in a few weeks or several months. In some cases, you may have developed long-term or permanent difficulties or disabilities that prevent you from working. As a result, you might find that you have medical bills to pay and reduced income, in addition to your physical and emotional pain and suffering. A sports brain injury lawyer can help you understand your options for seeking compensation.

Here are some symptoms of sports-related TBIs that may be temporary or permanent:

  • Cognitive impairment or challenges. These are very common with TBIs, and symptoms vary based on which area or areas of the brain are affected. You may have trouble with memory, judgment, decision-making, or concentration.
  • Speech or language issues. One prevalent symptom of TBI is struggling to find the word you’re looking for. This occasionally happens to all of us, but a person suffering from a TBI may be unable to recall the word they need multiple times in a conversation. Others may have slurred speech or difficulty reading or writing.
  • Movement or motor skill problems. Some people have difficulty moving one side of their body, and in severe cases, they may be unable to walk or use one or more limbs.
  • Sensory difficulties. In some cases, the injured person might develop problems with their hearing, vision, or ability to orient themselves in space. With most of these issues, the affected area of the body is healthy, but the brain has difficulty communicating with it. For instance, certain head injuries may result in the brain ignoring anything on the right or left side of the visual field.
  • Chronic headaches, which can sometimes be debilitating.

Severe sports head injuries may be treated in the intensive care unit, in some cases requiring surgery to address life-threatening problems like bleeding in the brain or swelling of the brain. While this type of medical care can save your life, it can also result in high medical bills which may or may not be covered by your health insurance.

Even if you fully recover from your initial symptoms, you may discover the longer-term effects of a sports head injury later. While one head injury does not increase the risk of CTE, it is associated with an added risk of developing several other conditions:

  • Epilepsy or seizures
  • Dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease
  • ADHD and behavioral issues in children
  • Mental health issues such as anxiety or depression – one study found that as many as 1 in 5 people experience mental health difficulties following a head injury

Determining Liability for Your Sports Brain Injury

Many people believe they can’t pursue compensation for their sports head injury because they signed a waiver assuming the risk of playing a sport. In some cases, this is correct – when you decide to play a contact sport like football, for example, you understand that injuries can happen. The same applies if you sign a waiver for your minor child to play sports at school or another organization.

However, assuming risk or signing a waiver does not exempt everyone else involved from responsibility. The school or facility hosting the game or sporting event has an obligation to provide a safe environment for players. If they furnish the team with unsafe equipment, and this equipment is a direct cause of your sports injury, they might still be liable, regardless of any waiver you signed.

For instance, let’s say that a local organization hosts an amateur football league and provides the players with helmets and other safety equipment. After suffering a head injury during a game, you learn that your helmet was ten years old and did not meet safety standards, resulting in reduced protection for your head. In this case, we might be able to seek compensation from the organization for their negligence.

Other situations in which another party might be liable for your sports head injury include:

  • Intentional or reckless behavior by another player. Getting hurt due to normal contact in a contact sport is not usually a sign of negligence. But if another player behaved recklessly, went out of their way to try to hurt you, or acted outside typical behavior for the sport, you may be able to sue them. For example, if another player gets mad that you scored and punches you in the face, they might be liable for your injuries. In these cases, it will be necessary to have evidence to back up your claim, such as other players who are willing to testify that someone acted recklessly or intentionally.
  • Negligent coaching. In most cases, it isn’t a coach’s fault if a player gets hurt. But if your coach required you to do something dangerous or reckless, they may be negligent.
  • Product liability. Sometimes the organization providing safety equipment follows regulations and buys the correct equipment, but they unknowingly receive defective items. Or, you might have bought your own equipment and received a faulty unit. With head injuries, the issue is typically a defective helmet or other equipment designed to protect the head. If you suspect your helmet didn’t meet safety standards, we recommend saving it for further examination. Your lawyer will investigate to find out if other consumers have experienced problems with this model, and they may have experts examine the helmet.

How Can You Get Help with Your Sports Brain Injury Damages?

A sports brain injury can have a severe effect on your life, sometimes permanently. Even if your head injury was relatively minor, it increases your risk for multiple health problems later. The medical bills may be overwhelming, and if you need ongoing care or therapy, they could get even worse. Additionally, you may have missed time at work or could not return to your career due to difficulties caused by your head injury. Permanent injury or disability can impact your entire life, including personal relationships, family, friends, leisure activities, and work.

Is someone else liable for your injuries? The answer isn’t always clear if you don’t have deep knowledge of the laws in North Carolina. If you or a loved one have sustained a head injury from sports, please contact Tatum & Atkinson for a free consultation to better understand the situation and learn about your options for seeking compensation. If we take your case, we never charge a fee until we win or settle it.