Articles Posted in Traumatic Brain Injuries

Over the past few years, the National Football League and the National Hockey League have been involved in lawsuits brought by players, alleging that the league failed to adequately prevent and treat serious head injuries that can lead to life-threatening diagnoses, including Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). New research indicates that professional athletes may not be the only ones at risk.

The Theory of Liability

Players in these lawsuits claim that the leagues they play in failed to adequately warn them of the potential for serious, life-threatening harm that can result from participating in the sport. Players claim that they were encouraged to get back onto the field or ice shortly after they suffered serious head injuries or concussions, and this has resulted in an increased risk of developing CTE. CTE is only diagnosable after someone has died, but people who suffer from the disease experience myriad symptoms, including anxiety, aggression, parkinsonism, depression, dementia, and even suicidality.

The crux of the players’ claim is that the league knew or should have known of the dangers present in playing the high-contact sports and should have taken more precautions and taken head injuries more seriously when they did occur. In fact, a group of NFL players recently reached a settlement with the NFL to establish a fund to compensate injured players. The details of that settlement are still being worked out.

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Earlier last year and throughout this year, the NFL has been involved in a lawsuit brought by a number of former players alleging that the league failed to take adequate precautions to protect the players from concussions and related head injuries. According to one news source, recently a group of NHL players have piggy-backed on that same idea and have filed a lawsuit against the NHL making similar allegations.

The lawsuit specifically alleges that the NHL withheld information about the long-term effects of the head injuries that can occur from playing in the NHL. Originating back in early 2014, the NHL concussion lawsuit has recently been picking up steam with the publicity surrounding the NFL litigation. In fact, just recently 29 former players joined the lawsuit.

Like many deceased players formerly in the NFL, it is surmised that several NHL players have chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is a disease of the brain that can only be diagnosed post-mortem. Consistent with a CTE diagnosis, the lawsuit points to several players who died at young ages from suicide.

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A series of lawsuits allege that the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) breached a duty to protect and safeguard student-athletes against concussion injuries. The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) consolidated multiple putative class action claims into a single action in an Illinois court to resolve any common issues. In re National Collegiate Athletic Assoc. Student-Athlete Concussion Injury Litigation, No. MDL-2492, mot. to transfer (N.D. Ill., Sep. 4, 2013). One of the consolidated lawsuits claims a class consisting of all current and former collegiate athletes suffering from concussion-related injuries, while the others only claim classes of former athletes. A track runner recently became the first active Division I-A athlete to bring such a claim against the NCAA, but dropped the lawsuit without prejudice shortly after filing it.

“Concussion” is a term applied to a range of traumatic brain injuries caused by a direct blow or jolt to the head. Athletes in “contact” sports, especially football, seem to be at high risk of concussions. An athlete who sustains a concussion might not even realize it right away. Symptoms may include cognitive problems, such as difficulty concentrating or thinking clearly; physical symptoms like headache, nausea, light sensitivity, and blurred vision; emotional changes like irritability and anxiety; and changes to one’s sleep cycle. A single concussion may not have a long-term impact if treated promptly. Multiple concussions can result in psychiatric disorders, memory loss, and heightened risk of dementia or Parkinson’s disease.

The JPML proceeding began when the plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit, Arrington v. NCAA, No. 11-cv-06356 (N.D. Ill.) sought to consolidate several other cases in a single district. The Arrington case had already completed discovery, so consolidation would improve the efficiency of all of the case, which allegedly had common questions of law and fact. The JPML approved the transfer of the other cases to the Northern District of Illinois in December 2013. As of mid-March, 2014, the JPML proceeding includes ten pending actions.

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The NFL announced late last month that it has reached a tentative $765 million settlement regarding a class action lawsuit stemming from concussion-related brain injuries. The case survived a motion to dismiss earlier this spring.

In sum, more than 4,500 former athletes joined as plaintiffs in the suit, some suffering from dementia, depression or Alzheimer’s which they attribute to hits to the head, accusing the league of concealing the true dangers of concussions, rushing injured players back onto the field, and all the while profiting from the glorification of the types of intense hits that caused extensive brain damage and related complications.

The lead plaintiffs’ lawyer said in a statement that if the terms of the settlement are finalized, individual awards will be capped at $5 million for men with Alzheimer’s disease; $4 million for those diagnosed after death with a brain condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy; and $3 million for players with dementia. Because the lawsuit was a class action, any and all of the 18,000 former NFL players would be eligible, as members of the “class.” Additionally, as a class action, a judge must first approve the settlement, in order to ensure that it is fair for all of the class members, particularly those who are not named, or main plaintiffs to the litigation. Part of the funds will be used to pay for future medical exams, and underwrite related research.

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A former high school football player, Scott Eveland of San Marcos, California, has settled his lawsuit with the school district over a head injury he sustained in a 2007 game. The injury has left him confined to a wheelchair, able to speak only through the use of an iPad or computer keyboard.

The issue of traumatic brain injuries in football has gained attention in recent months, with multiple lawsuits seeking damages from both athletic organizations and equipment manufacturers. Eveland had previously settled a products liability claim against the helmet manufacturers, and the remainder of the case focused on the liability of the school’s coaching staff.

Eveland was a senior at Mission Hills High School in San Marcos, located north of San Diego. He played linebacker for the varsity football team. According to the lawsuit, on September 14, 2007, he went to the athletic trainer to ask to sit out the first quarter because of a headache, which he claimed was so bad he could not focus his eyes. Eveland had already reportedly missed parts of practice due to headaches. The trainer went to the head coach who told the trainer, according to a student trainer who claimed to have witnessed the exchange, “You aren’t a [expletive] doctor,” and that the coach would decide who would play in the game. Both the trainer and the coach denied having this discussion in their depositions.

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The tragic death of a 12 year-old Chicago-area boy in a baseball-related accident has brought attention to a lack of data tracking regarding sports injuries in children. Although researchers have extensively catalogued injuries in athletes at the high school level and up, no one is collecting information on injuries to younger athletes. Sports can be a cause of serious injuries in children, so having access to information and statistics could help not only parents, but equipment manufacturers assess risks and develop safer products.

A 12 year-old boy from Oswego, Illinois, Eric Lederman, died in April from an injury caused by a baseball hitting him in the neck. Lederman was playing catch with a teammate on the side of the field while warming up for a game on Thursday, April 12. The ball struck him in the neck, reportedly hitting his carotid artery. He immediately collapsed and was taken to the hospital. He was pronounced dead at the hospital just after 8:00 p.m. The cause of death was determined to be a cerebral hemorrhage caused by blunt-force trauma, and was declared an accident.

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Football, as the saying goes, is a contact sport. It may therefore come as a surprise to learn that a number of professional football players have sued the National Football League and helmet manufacturer Riddell over concussions suffered during games. In all, 125 former players have filed suit in at least five separate complaints, alleging that the NFL failed to properly warn players of the risks of head injuries and to provide support for retired players. Concussions in sports, particularly professional football, have received heightened scrutiny recently in both the media and in Congress, with many statistics suggesting that the number of concussions has increased significantly.

A concussion is a common type of brain injury caused by an impact with the head making the brain collide with the inside of the skull. This can lead to both physical and cognitive symptoms, ranging from headache and dizziness to disorientation and attention deficits. A person who suffers from a concussion may not lose consciousness, and many concussions go undiagnosed because the injured person does not realize the injury’s severity. Multiple concussions over time can cause significant brain damage, including memory loss and dementia. The NFL began to pay serious attention to concussions in 2009, and in February 2011 it announced new guidelines to gauge whether an injured player should continue to play.

The lawsuits consist of a class action suit and three personal injury suits in California state court and a case in a federal court in Pennsylvania. The suits essentially allege that the NFL has a duty to inform players of all risks reasonably associated with their job duties and to support players injured in the course of their job duties. In this situation, the players’ “job duties” involve practicing for and playing football. Lawyers for the players say that they hope to use the lawsuits to improve safety standards for all players, to prevent future injuries, and to get compensation for the players’ injuries.

To prevail on their claim, the players would have to prove that the NFL had knowledge of risks inherent in the game not available to an ordinary prudent person, and that the players did not assume the risk of injury by agreeing to play the game. An argument in the players’ favor, perhaps, is that they did not have the ability to refuse to perform certain job functions, since these would occur in the middle of games and players are contractually obligated to play.

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Our DC injury lawyers are familiar with the devastation that suffering from a traumatic brain injury can wreak on the lives of victims and their families. Now, here is more disturbing news about some of the serious side effects that can come with a Washington DC TBI.

University of California-San Francisco scientists, who studied nearly 300,000 older war veterans (age 55 and older), found the having a brain injury can more than double a person’s risk of developing dementia. According to lead researcher and San Francisco VA Medical’s Center Memory Disorders Program’s director Kristine Yaffe, veterans with a TBI diagnosis had a 15% chance of developing dementia, while the risk for those who never had a TBI was 7%.

Obviously, you don’t have to go to war to develop a traumatic brain injury. Fall accidents and car crashes are two of the most common causes of TBIs. In many instances, these types of accidents occur because someone else was negligent, which is where an experienced Washington DC traumatic brain injury law firm can step in to help you.

Unfortunately, a TBI doesn’t just up someone’s dementia risk, but Taiwanese researchers report that having a TBI can increase the patient’s chances of developing a stroke by up to 10-fold. It doesn’t help that complications from a TBI, such as cardiac injuries, ruptured arteries, and blood clotting disturbances, can also increase the chances of stroke.

The researchers compared data between 69,597 patients without TBIs and 23,199 patients with TBIs. They found that within the first three months, TBI patients had a 2.91% risk of stroke while the risk for those who didn’t have a brain injury was .3%. That’s a 10-fold difference. However, with time, the risk of stroke for the TBI patient did go down. Although his/her risk of stroke was 4.6 times more one year after the injury, after five years it had gone down to 2.3 times more than for patients who never had a TBI.

A fractured skull, however, did up the chance of stroke by 20 times for patients with brain injuries compares to those without this type of fracture. The chances of brain bleed, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, diabetes, heart failure, and atrial fibrillation was also greater for TBI patients. This study can be found in Stroke’s July 28 online edition.

Proving that you have a brain injury and that it occurred in an accident caused by another party’s negligence can be incredibly challenging, which is why you want to make sure you are represented by experienced DC traumatic brain injury lawyers.

Stroke Risk Spikes After Brain Injury, The State Column, July 31, 2011
Traumatic brain injury doubles risk of later dementia, USA Today, July 18, 2011

Related Web Resources:

Traumatic Brain Injury, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Stroke Association

More Blog Posts:
Many Brain Injury Patients Suffer from Pseudobulbar Affect, Says Survey, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, January 6, 2011
Maryland TBI: Call a Concussion a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury, Says Researchers, Maryland Accident Law Blog, January 23, 2010
Natasha Richardson Did Not Receive Medical Attention Until Four Hours After Ski Fall Accident that Resulted in Fatal Traumatic Brain Injury, Maryland Accident Law Blog, March 20, 2009

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According to a survey released by the Brain Injury Association of America, about 80% of respondents suffer from a neurological condition called pseudobulbar affect. PBA is believed to occur when there is structural damage to the brain. It can cause involuntary crying or laughing outbursts especially during situations that are inappropriate.

Survey participants included brain injury patients and caregivers. Data showed that almost 80% of qualified respondents experienced episodes of PBA. About 48% reported being regularly affected by this condition. Only 7% were aware of the term pseudobulbar affect, which is a treatable medical condition that is separate from the brain injury and often under diagnosed. 67% reportedly suffer from PBA but have not been treated for it.

Caregivers and brain injury patients suffering PBA report that the condition has a negative impact on quality of life, affecting social activities, time with family, and work. PBA can also strain relationships, causing embarrassment for the person and their family, while offending others who may not be aware that the seemingly inappropriate reactions are not within the person’s control. More than a million people reportedly suffer from PBA.

Brain Injuries

If you believe that your Washington DC brain injury was caused by another party’s negligent or careless actions, you may have grounds for a DC personal injury case. Common causes of brain injuries include motor vehicle crashes, violent crimes, illness, getting struck or striking a hard objects, fall accidents, firearm injuries, athletic or recreational accidents, drowning accidents, surgical errors, electrical shock, construction accidents, strangulation or suffocation accidents, and exposure to toxic chemicals.

Living with a brain injury can be very challenging and expensive. Some brain injury patients may need 24-hour care. Still others may require the use of medical devices and specialized medical care to maintain a decent quality of life. The side effects from a brain injury can make it tough for the patient to live independently, hold down a job, tend to daily tasks, take part in regular activities, or maintain relationships.

New Brain Injury Association Survey Reveals Nearly 80 Percent of Respondents Suffer Added Burden of Neurologic Condition with Debilitating Social Impact, PR Newswire/Brain Injury Association of America, January 6, 2010
Related Web Resources:

Brain Injury Association of America

Pseudobulbar Affect

Traumatic Brain Injuries, Maryland Accident Law Blog

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The District has agreed to pay $10 million over the catastrophic beating of a young boy at the hands of his foster mother. The child, Rafael Pearson, sustained a massive brain injury from the assaults.

Pearson, whose biological mother was suffering from drug addiction, was just a few days old when he was placed in the hands of foster mom Tanya Jenkins. 46 days later, he was nearly dead after she had severely shaken and beaten him. Pearson ended up on life support for days.

Today, he remains profoundly disabled and will require 24-hour care for the rest of his life. The young boy will eventually go live at his grandmother’s home where an elevator will have to be installed. The DC child injury settlement will be paid out in 3 installments and is there to provide for his medical care for the rest of his life.

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