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Traumatic Brain Injury Prevention Should Focus on the Neck

Our Chicago traumatic brain injury lawyers have spent a lot of time recently discussing concerns about the prevalence of head injuries in sports. Many tragic, high-profile stories exist about football players, hockey players, and soccer players who have suffered serious injury-even death-because of contact on the field. One of the most common causes of this harm are second-impact injuries. These arise when a player suffers a concussion, the injury is not given time to properly heal, and then the player suffers a second impact.

Much attention has rightfully been paid to these issues because the harm is so great and the injuries are entirely preventable. In this context the most serious harm from traumatic brain injuries can be prevented in one of two ways-(1) prevent the contact from occurring at all, or (2) ensure that proper treatment is provided 100% of the time. More attention has been made to the second option, because it likely provides more long-term benefit to players. It is also easier. Conversely, trying to prevent all potentially damaging contact in many of these sports is very difficult, especially because most of these activities are based on contact of one form or another.

However, that is not to say that it is impossible for all such injuries to be prevented. For example, rule changes in certain games can be included which minimize the risk of harm. Prohibitions against certain kinds of head to head tackles, for example, is likely an important safety step in football. Also, some experts are also working on changes to safety equipment to help cushion certain blows and prevent sever trauma that otherwise might result in an actual sports head injury. These equipment changes are easier said than done. Football helmets have difficult preventing head trauma because the actual harm comes from the brain making, contact with the inside of the skull, not the skull making contact with a helmet. In other words, the actual internal contact which is at the root of these brain injuries is not easily remedied by adding equipment outside the body.

An interesting article in CBC Sports actually talked a bit about this issue yesterday. The story contained a Q & A with a physician who is a concussion expert. The doctor explained that contrary to many assumptions, when it comes to concussion prevention and diagnosis much more attention actually needs to be paid to the neck. The neck can also be forced to endure substantial stress from serious head contact.

The doctor explained that there is often a significant relationship between traumatic brain injuries-like concussions-and neck injury. He explained that a head injury is “never unique to the rest of the spine.” When the head is harmed, there is a cascading effect down the individual’s back, because of the interconnectivity of the skeleton. He believes that you cannot have one injury without the other-head injuries always include neck injuries. The whiplash effect that often causes a concussion almost always results in a neck injury, because the neck is forced to stop abruptly and awkwardly.

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