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| Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

It will come as welcome news to many parents that as Norfolk, Virginia high school football season begins in earnest, the dangers associated with head injuries are increasingly prominent. The new attention concussions are receiving has led to changes in how they are detected and dealt with. For some, it’s also led to lawsuits.

While a concussion is defined as a trauma to the brain resulting in neurological injury, athletes may experience a range of symptoms as a result. According to the Mayo Clinic, the signs and symptoms of a concussion can be subtle and may not be immediately apparent. Symptoms can last for days, weeks and in more serious cases, a lifetime. The most common symptoms after a concussive traumatic brain injury are headache, amnesia and confusion.

While a host of concussion-related lawsuits have been directed against high schools, much larger athletic organizations have found themselves in the crosshairs, including the NCAA, NFL and NHL. The increase in such suits corresponds with an increase in awareness of the risks posed by head injury. Studies have been conducted which are finally revealing the long-term damage such injuries can cause, including severe degenerative brain disease.

One major case that helped get the ball rolling was filed last year by former athletes against the National Collegiate Athletic Association. The plaintiffs claimed that the organization was negligent in caring for its players and failed to properly treat brain traumas despite an awareness of the dangers they posed.

Another suit levels similar charges against the National Football League in a sprawling battle that involves two groups of plaintiffs. The first group includes current players who are seeking improved medical care and treatment related to brain trauma. The second batch of plaintiffs includes those suing for actual injury or death caused by their head injuries. Nearly 3,000 individual suits have been filed as part of the litigation and the number could actually go up, as there are nearly 21,000 retired players.

The plaintiffs are claiming that the NFL was aware of the relationship between concussions and permanent neurological damage, but choose to do nothing about it. Attorneys are claiming the League had solid medical evidence regarding the lasting damage posed by such injuries from as early as 1928.

All the lawsuits, whether by parents of injured high schoolers or families of debilitated professional athletes, share a common theme: if the brain is allowed proper time to heal, it can recover from most head injuries. The plaintiffs believe that the defendants failed to provide the necessary time to heal, never warning those in their care of the risks associated with what they thought were only minor injuries.

Parents, players, families and friends are now standing up and using this moment of awareness to tell these various organizations that no game is worth the steep price associated with repeated head injuries.

About the Editors: The Shapiro, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC). The attorneys publish articles and edit the Legal Examiner for the Virginia Beach, Norfolk and Northeast North Carolina regions as pro bono service.


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