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Concussions can cause serious and lasting damage

If you are the parent of a high school or college athlete who is playing contact sports, chances are good that you are concerned by any head injuries they might suffer while on the field or court.

Just over a decade ago, doctors and researchers were able to identify and diagnose Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) in former athletes who were known to have suffered head injuries, e.g., concussions, during their years of play.

CTE is very serious — and irreversible at this time. This degenerative brain disease is progressive, but in the early stages, you may be unaware of its severity. Over time, however, it will become disabling and terminal.

But it's just a concussion!

These seemingly "minor" concussions can actually be anything but. They are, in reality, traumatic brain injuries (TBI), the cumulative effect of which can result in a CTE diagnosis down the line.

The larger problem is that despite the latest technology. the present helmet designs worn by both student and professional football players may be insufficient to prevent TBIs now and CTE later.

Follow concussion protocols religiously

So, what are these athletes to do? Throw in the towel on potentially lucrative careers and scholarship possibilities?

Not necessarily, but it does mean that caution must be exercised both on and off the field. If a head injury occurs, concussion protocols must be observed to minimize any long-term damage to the sufferer.

After a brain injury like a concussion, the victim is particularly vulnerable to damage from a second blow to the head. This additional head trauma could even cause death or lasting brain damage that could leave the former athlete a mere shell of him- or herself.

Never let an athlete re-enter a game after a head injury

Coaches and trainers must behave responsibly and never permit an injured player who has had his or her "bell rung" to return to the game. Instead, the player needs to be sidelined and concussion protocols put in place until the injury has had a chance to heal.

Do parents have any recourse?

A certain amount of risk is assumed when an athlete plays any contact sport. But that does not absolve the sports authorities from acts of negligence that could lead to serious, permanent injuries like TBIs and CTE. If you suspect that negligence played a role in your student athlete's injuries, you may be able to pursue compensation against the negligent party.

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