According to the Brain Injury Association (BIA), falls are the most frequent cause of brain injuries (40.5 %). Car accidents (14.3%), being struck by or striking against something (15.5%), and assault (10.7%) are the next most frequent causes. Inhaling of ingesting toxins can cause brain injuries; strokes, tumors, blood clots, electric shock, workplace accidents, gunshot wounds, lightning strikes, explosions, shrapnel, drowning, and medical malpractice also cause brain injuries. Athletes, particularly those in contact sports, skateboarders, and bicyclists sustain these type of injuries from collisions and falls. Children are at risk for brain injuries in falls from high chairs, in cribs that do not meet safety standards, and when a wheeled walker falls down a flight of stairs. Brain injuries can occur when the brain is deprived of oxygen, which sometimes happens during surgery.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that as many as 3.8 million traumatic brain injuries occur each year during sports and recreational activities. Professional athletes can develop chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive neurodegenerative disease that shares symptoms including memory loss, cognitive decline, and changes in moods and behavior, with Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease). Repeated traumatic brain injury puts individuals at a higher risk for developing a neurodegenerative condition later in life. ESPN reports that more than 70 former professional football players have been diagnosed with progressive neurological disease after their deaths. In March of 2015, professional football player Chris Borland, a San Francisco 49ers linebacker, retired at age 24 out of concern over the long-term effects of repeated brain trauma.
Brain injuries are a particular concern in young athletes, whose brains are still developing. Some communities have instituted age restrictions for tackle football and many have adopted stricter guidelines about when a child can return to play after a concussion. Doctors say even a single mild concussion can have long-term consequences and should not be ignored. Safety experts recommend helmets for many sports and leisure activities, but New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has warned about exaggerated and misleading claims manufacturers have made about "anti-concussive" properties of their helmets. Such claims can create a false sense of security about injury risks.
The effects of a brain injury can include
- Sleep disturbance
- Sensitivity to noise or light
- Balance problems
- Decreased concentration and attention span
- Decreased speed of thinking
- Memory problems
- Depression and anxiety
- Mood swings
Severe brain injuries can result in temporary or persistent vegetative state.
Seat belts, helmets, window guards, handrails, and nonslip mats, can help prevent brain injuries, but in some circumstances, the individual’s safety depends on the actions or inactions of others. In public places and in the workplace, carelessness or violation of safety rules can result in preventable injuries.
Billions of dollars are spent annually for the direct treatment of brain injuries and for rehabilitation and long-term care. After a brain injury, the person may need to relearn regular activities such as walking and talking, and this can be a lengthy process. Long Island law firm Parker Waichman LLP is nationally recognized for its work to help brain-injury victims receive compensation.
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