Brain Injuries in the NFL and Beyond

Brain injuries are commonly referred to as the “invisible injury” because they are not as apparent as other injuries like a broken bone.  Brain injuries often do not appear on standard-issued imaging equipment, thus making it difficult for doctors to diagnose.  Further, victims and their families may not recognize the cognitive changes in injured person.   And, in cases of potential culpability, these type of cases present many challenges for lawyers to litigate. The truth is, we simply don’t know enough about the brain and how it works.

What’s most unfortunate is that we do know that brain injuries can be uniquely devastating to victims. They can change the lives of victims and their loved ones in profound ways. It’s hard to imagine the pain of a debilitating, recurring headache but even harder to imagine what it would be like to have a loved one’s personality completely change due to an injury.

A spotlight has been placed upon brain injuries due to recent safety measures taken by the National Football League. A few unfortunate and high profile cases of severe brain diseases and injuries in NFL star player had led to frequent media coverage and increased awareness.

Most importantly, however, the recent media attention resulted in a renewed focus in research for brain injuries. This new research can lead to new advancements in the treatment and prevention of these devastating injuries.

Impact of Brain Injuries

The brain is extremely complicated and controls everything you do. Everything has to be in-balance. If an injury causes an imbalance in a victim, this imbalance can have wide-reaching effects.

Sometimes brain injuries can have immediate and apparent effects. Victims may struggle to regain motor function after a major injury or may suffer continuing headaches and migraines. But in some cases, the effects may be less noticeable. Small changes in personality or disposition may take time to become pronounced, hiding in plain sight.

And because we know so little about how the brain works, modern medicine is unlikely to offer a path to complete recovery for brain injury victims.

Brain Injuries in the NFL

NFL players have suffered a wide range of brain injuries like these over their long careers. Because of the concussive nature of tackles, players can suffer repeated injuries every weekend. Most impacts are minor, but the cumulative effect of these impacts can become major over time.

Constant, repetitive brain trauma has led to the discovery of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, in many former NFL players. CTE is particularly devastating as it can manifest itself in countless ways from occasional lightheadedness to memory loss and even suicidal thoughts.

CTE initially became a major point of emphasis after the suicide of former NFL superstar, Junior Seau. Seau, known for his punishing hits while in the league, began acting erratically around family and friends shortly after he retired from the NFL in 2010 after a 20-year career. His body was found in 2013 by his girlfriend alongside a note requesting his brain be studied for trauma. Sure enough, upon examination, his brain showed signs of CTE from years of repeated concussions.

Unfortunately, there is still no way to diagnose CTE while the patient is living, making it difficult to prevent and impossible to address symptoms.

Positive Changes

The NFL has since been under constant scrutiny for their treatment of players and former players with brain injuries, forcing substantive changes in how they address injuries during games. There was even a large lawsuit, settled in 2013 between the NFL and around 4,500 former players and their estates.

Since then, the NFL has helped fund studies for improving helmet technology and changed protocols for concussions on the sidelines, taking decisions of whether or not to continue playing after a brain injury out of the players and coaches’ hands and placing it in the hands of unbiased medical experts.

Beyond the NFL

The increased attention to CTE has also had a major impact beyond the NFL. New medical studies on concussions and traumatic brain injuries have made major advancements in diagnosis and treatment. Because the symptoms of brain injuries are better known, more victims have sought medical attention and sought compensation from those who may be responsible. Legal precedence has also improved, and lawyers are taking the time to learn more about how to protect the rights of brain injury victims.

We may still have a long way to go before we fully understand the human brain, but we’re well on our way to learning more. While it is unfortunate that so many had to suffer in silence for so long, the recent attention to the issue has initiated this improvement.
Find out more about brain injury litigation here. Have you or a loved one suffered a potential brain injury? Contact us, the personal injury experts at Wendt Law Firm P.C. for a free consultation of your case.


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