Alabama has one of the strictest (and safest) concussion laws in the United States. Once a sign and/or symptom of a concussion is observed or reported, the athlete must be removed from play or practice and the athlete cannot return until evaluated and cleared in writing by a medical doctor. While the first concussion may not always be preventable, the second one is, and allowing an athlete to continue to play with signs and symptoms of a concussion leaves the athlete especially vulnerable to greater injury.

Alabama’s concussion safety rules are meaningless, however, unless they are followed and enforced. Mezrano Law Firm knows that the first step in ensuring that safety rules are followed and enforced is education and awareness. We all want to protect our student athletes on and off the field and make our sporting events and communities safer. The following information is designed to do just that.

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a traumatic brain injury caused by a forceful bump, blow, or jolt to the head or body that results in rapid movement of the head and disrupts the normal function of the brain.

All concussions are potentially serious and my result in complications including prolonged brain damage and death if not recognized and managed properly. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a major cause of death and disability in the United States. In 2014, the most recent date supplied by the CDC:

“an average of 155 people in the United States died each day from injuries that include a TBI. Those who survive a TBI can face effects that last a few days, or the rest of their lives. Effects of TBI can include impairments related to thinking or memory, movement, sensation (e.g., vision or hearing), or emotional functioning (e.g., personality changes, depression). These issues not only affect individuals but also can have lasting effects on families and communities.”

The CDC data from the same year shows:

  • There were approximately “2.87 million TBI-related emergency department (ED) visits, hospitalizations, and deaths.”
    • Out of that 2.87 million, more than 837,000 involved children
  • 56,800 people died from TBI-related injuries
    • 2,529 of them were children
  • Approximately 812,000 children up to age 17 were treated for a concussion or TBI

Between 2006 and 2014, there was a 54% increase in emergency department visits for traumatic brain injuries.

Signs and symptoms of a concussion

You cannot see a concussion and contrary to popular belief, most sports concussions occur without the loss of consciousness. Signs and symptoms may show up right after an injury or can take hours or days to fully appear. It is well known that adolescent or teenage athletes will often fail to report symptoms of injuries, including concussions. Therefore, education and awareness are key. If a student athlete reports any symptoms of a concussion, or if you notice the symptoms or signs of a concussion seek medical attention right away.

Symptoms of a possible concussion include one or more of the following:

  • Headache / “Pressure in head”
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Neck pain
  • Balance problems of dizziness
  • Sensitivity to light or noise
  • Feeling sluggish or slowed down
  • Blurred, double or fuzzy vision
  • Drowsiness
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Amnesia
  • Complaints of “I don’t feel right”
  • Fatigue or low energy
  • Increased emotional responses
  • Concentration or memory problems
  • Repeating the same question/comment

What teammates, coaches, and parents can look for when it comes to concussions

Because concussions don’t always present with the same symptoms, and because different student athletes may exhibit symptoms, it can be hard to tell if your teammate, student athlete, or child is showing signs of a concussion. Here are some of the more common signs and symptoms we have heard:

  • Appearing dazed
  • Vacant facial expression
  • Confusion about their position or assignment
  • Uncertainty about the score or the opponent
  • Personality or behavior changes
  • Inability to remember what happened before the hit or fall
  • Slurred speech
  • Answering questions slowly
  • Seizures or convulsions
  • Loss of consciousness

As soon as a possible concussion is suspected:

  • Any student athlete who exhibits signs, symptoms or behaviors consistent with a possible concussion must be removed and cannot return that day.
  • Following the day the concussive signs, symptoms or behaviors occur, the student athlete may return to practice or play only after a medical release has been issued by a medical doctor.

Only a medical doctor can clear an athlete to return to play in Alabama – not a coach and not an athletic trainer.

What is Second Impact Syndrome?

Alabama’s concussion law is specifically designed to ensure that a potentially concussed athletes are not exposed to the devasting and even fatal consequences associated with second impact syndrome (SIS). The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) defines SIS as “repetitive head injury syndrome, [which] describes a condition in which individual experiences a second head injury before complete recovery from an initial head injury.”

Per the NCBI, the repercussions of undiagnosed SIS can be catastrophic: “If, within several weeks, the athlete returns to play and sustains a second head injury, diffuse cerebral swelling, brain herniation, and death can occur. SIS can occur with any two events involving head trauma. While rare, it is devastating in that young, healthy patients may die within a few minutes.”

If your child or someone you love has suffered a traumatic brain injury, the experienced Alabama injury lawyers at Mezrano Law Firm can help explain your rights. We work with doctors experienced in brain injury cases. Our goal is to ensure that those who are responsible are held fully accountable. For help now, call us at 205-206-6300 or use our contact form. We have offices located in Birmingham, Florence, Gadsden, Mobile, Montgomery, and Tuscaloosa.