After a hard hit on the football field or a batter taking a pitch to the head, trainers hustle to check the injured for symptoms of a concussion. This scene has become common in almost every sporting event from Little League to the professional ranks.

Recently there has been increased awareness about the dangers of concussions and what can be done to effectively prevent and treat them. “We’ve had a national explosion of interest in the area of concussion and mild traumatic brain injury,” said Dr. Hunt Batjer, co-chairman of the National Football League’s (NFL’s) Head, Neck and Spine Committee.

With raised awareness, the NFL reported 21 percent more concussions this season. The researchers, however, debate which has the worst long-term effects, the severity of a concussion or the cumulative effect of numerous and continuous blows to the head, like what an offensive lineman receives.

Awareness in the professional ranks and holding players out for post-concussion therapy seem to have affected the high school level positively, no longer questioning a player’s guts for sitting out a game.

This awareness may be responsible for twice as many teen athletes seeking emergency room help for concussions in 2005 compared to 1997. According to one estimate, 130,000 youths sustain sports-related concussions each year – a number that is on the rise.

The speculation surrounding this increase is either rougher play or increased awareness of the injury. Perhaps it is some of both; but the increase in awareness is applauded.

Brain injuries are beginning to be linked to severe memory loss and degenerative brain diseases. Some institutions have implemented a program to baseline-test cognitive and reactive levels in their athletes in order to test post-concussion abilities. This protocol will more accurately assess the extent of damage and the pathway to recovery.

Since concussions potentially have long-term effects, injured athletes should seek immediate attention from physicians. If negligence or a product defect is to blame the injured party should also consider seeking counsel from an experienced attorney. A lawyer can work to hold responsible parties accountable.

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