From high school teams to professional sports, injured players are cleared by a medical professional before returning to play. But are doctors clearing athletes to play when the players are not ready to bear more head trauma at the time, if ever? A new documentary about head injuries in sports called “Head Games” is bringing attention to the long-ignored subject of the lifelong effects of head trauma.
Several lawsuits are currently pending against the NFL, brought by a number of players alleging that the NFL does not do enough to prevent and treat head injuries suffered by players. Philadelphia brain injury attorneys filed a “mega lawsuit” in June accusing the NFL of hiding information about the widespread damage the players were suffering. Multiple examples have surfaced of athletes who suffered repetitive brain injuries while playing, and then developed neurodegenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer’s disease or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Medical malpractice can stem from improperly treating a patient for a condition or illness that turns out to be the wrong diagnosis, or it can result from failure to recognize that certain symptoms add up to a diagnosis that the doctor did not conclude. In the case of brain injuries, the signs can be subtle, but identifying brain injury as soon as possible is crucial to healthy recovery.
A former NHL player who is featured in the documentary played for the Philadelphia Flyers, but decided to hang up his skates after a fourth concussion caused him enough concern about his head injuries. Are doctors doing enough to treat and prevent brain injuries? Studies show that even one concussion can cause enough brain injury to increase the chances of developing a degenerative disease in the future caused by brain trauma, but repetitive head trauma from contact sports can damage the brain to an extent perhaps not yet understood.
Someone who believes that a doctor failed to diagnose a concussion, or cleared an athlete to return to a potentially dangerous activity, like collision sports, may be eligible to seek compensation from the doctor for negligently failing to diagnose a severe condition, or allowing re-injury. When it comes to brain injury, identifying and treating damage can be an important key to future brain health.
Source: The DePaulia, “‘Head’ injuries analyzed in new film,” Hanna Guerro, Oct. 7, 2012