Anyone who has ever been hit in the head and seen stars or had their ears ring probably knows what it is to suffer from a concussion. The word concussion comes from the Latin root word, concutre, meaning ‘to violently shake’. Concussions occur when the body suffers a blow to the head or neck or body that shakes the brain.
In recent years, there has been increasing interest in the medical condition known as traumatic brain injury or TBI. In simple terms, traumatic brain injury occurs when there is a violent blow to the head or body. Mild traumatic brain injury can result and cause brain cells to dysfunction. Repeated or more severe traumatic injury can cause traumatic brain injury. This can result in bruising, tearing tissues, and additional damage to the brain. In short, concussions that are strong enough or happen repeatedly over time will eventually cause TBI.
Members of our armed forces can often suffer from such injuries. So can athletes who play high-contact sports such as soccer, wrestling, or football where brain trauma can be caused by repeated impacts to the head and body. Athletes that play at any age, be they in junior sports, in high school, college or at a professional level are paying closer attention than ever to the issue of traumatic brain injury.
TBI can also lead to additional problems that can change behavior and even put people in court. One football player, NFL running back Cedric Cobbs, has been given three years’ probation after telling a federal judge that he is currently undergoing treatment for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or CTE.
Cobbs said he is currently receiving inpatient treatment for the disease, which is associated with repeated TBI. Symptoms of the disease include appearing ‘punch drunk’, mood swings, aggression, memory loss, and symptoms of depression and progressive dementia. While some saw Cobb’s explanation to the federal judge as a way for him to dodge federal drug charges, the threat of TBI and CTE are of real concern to many.
CTE is much like Alzheimer’s disease. Like Alzheimer ’s disease, there is no known cure. CTE, according to researchers, can only be caused by repeated blows to the head. These repeated traumas to the head cause a buildup of tau, a protein in the brain which is considered abnormal. Scientists know where in the brain to look for buildup of tau proteins but they have not been able to determine how many hits it takes before tau reaches critical levels in the brain. Genetics and age can play a significant role in whether or not a person will develop CTE.
For now, Cobb is being treated for symptoms of CTE. The only way to know for sure if someone has CTE is post mortem, or after a person dies. While researchers are working on ways to determine the chances for CTE, so far there is no sure way to diagnose the disease until after a suspected sufferer of CTE dies. Researchers have determined in past NFL players who have died, nearly 90% suffered from CTE.
In extreme cases, it can lead to complete brain dysfunction or death. In 2013, the NFL agreed to a $765 million settlement in a concussions lawsuit filed against it on behalf of current and past NFL players who suffered from the effects of traumatic brain injuries and their families.
Suffering from an injury, on the job or while playing sports can result in serious injury. If you or someone you love has suffered from such an injury, you should consult with experienced and qualified personal injury attorneys like the ones at NK & P.