Sports-related Concussion Injuries

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Concussions By The Numbers

According to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1.6 million to 3.8 million concussions occur each year. Of these, an estimated 173,285 children and youth will require emergency department treatment for sports-related and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) and concussions.

Every year, an estimated 5-10 percent of athletes will experience a concussion in any given sport season. For males, the sport with the greatest concussion risk is football (75 percent chance). For females, the sport with the greatest concussion risk is soccer (50 percent chance). Other sports with high rates of concussions include boys’ basketball, boys’ wrestling, boys’ baseball, and girls’ softball.

While the possibility of sustaining a concussion can be quite high in certain youth sports, historically, the reporting and diagnosis of concussions has been quite low. The most commonly reported symptoms immediately following a concussion include headache (85 percent) and dizziness (70-80 percent). Other symptoms include a dazed stare, sensitivity to light and sound, changes in reaction time, balance and coordination problems, memory problems, slurring or speech problems, and difficulty with judgment. However, individual experience may vary from person to person.

New Guidelines: “When In Doubt, Sit Them Out”

The latest recommendations from the American Academy of Neurology urge doctors to diagnose each concussion on an individual basis. According to the co-lead guideline author, Dr. Christopher Giza, “Among the most important recommendations the Academy is making is that any athlete suspected of experiencing a concussion immediately be removed from play…There is no set timeline for safe return to play.”

However, kids are not always aware of how injured they may be, which is why over the past few years there has been an increased emphasis placed on concussion awareness for coaches, programs, and athletes. Concussion awareness is necessary because in our society there still remains a culture of “win at all cost” and a pressure to “man up” and play despite concussion symptoms.

Sports Liability Waivers

It is not uncommon for businesses, public entities, and other organizations to require youth athletes and their parents to sign waiver forms prior to engaging in a sporting activity. These waiver forms, as noted by one scholarly legal source, often contain language which states that by signing the waiver, the individual agrees to waive all legal rights against the business, school, or other group that is demanding the waiver.

However, an individual who is injured in Florida should not assume that a sports or recreational activity waiver form is necessarily valid and binding. Florida law permits the waiver of “inherent risks,” which are the “dangers or conditions, known or unknown, which are characteristic of, intrinsic to, or an integral part of the activity” and which cannot be eliminated even if the activity provider acts with “due care in a reasonably prudent manner.” This means that a pre-activity waiver can only shield a business from liability if the child’s injuries arise as a natural part of the activity identified by the waiver and if the injuries could not have been eliminated if the business had exercised reasonable care.

Tallahassee Legal Help For Injured Athletes

Sports can be very beneficial for youth. They can gain physical skills, have an opportunity to interact with their peers, and learn the joy of competition. However, athletes and their parents expect that those involved in managing, supervising, and operating youth sports programs will take reasonable care to ensure that kids will not be harmed by risks other than those inherent in the sport.

If you have questions about an athlete that was harmed while participating in a sport, the personal injury attorneys at Fasig & Brooks are available to listen to your concerns and help you determine whether you may have a legal cause of action. The fact that you may have signed a waiver to participate in the sport does not necessarily bar you from bringing a cause of action, so it is important to discuss your situation with one of our knowledgeable Tallahassee lawyers. Call us today at (850) 222-3232 or use our online contact form to arrange for a free consultation.