Head Injuries in Sport
Keeping ourselves fit and healthy is one of the many benefits of taking part in sport. Team sports such as football, rugby and hockey have a whole range of additional benefits, including team building and social interaction.
With contact sports in particular, injuries and accidents can occur, with concussion and head injuries commonplace.
Whilst there are rules, guidance and legislation in place to protect sports players at every level from head trauma, it’s how these head accidents are dealt with by the governing bodies that we’re interested in.
Here at Carter Moore we have a dedicated team of Sports Injury Specialists led by Solicitor and Sporting Director, Jeremy Moore.
Speaking about Head Injuries in Sport, Mr Moore said: “Prevention of head injuries is the most effective form of defence and it’s clear to see that efforts have been made by sports officials to improve processes around these almost unavoidable concussion injuries in contact sport.
Ranging from proper, clear guidelines, legislation and process all the way through to rapid medical response and first aid, there is clearly some way to go when it comes to minimising the risk of long-term damage to players of contact sport”
Sport Head Injury Statistics
The following statistics from head injury charity HeadCase Company have been released to demonstrate the impact of concussions caused as a result of contact sports in the USA.
More than 3 million (3,800,000) concussions were reported in 2012, double what was reported in 2002.
More than a third (33%) of all sports concussions happen during training or practice.
Between 4 and 5 million sports concussions occur each year.
Head Injury Cases in the Media
In 2016, 5,000 former players successfully sued the NFL for $1bn (~£700m), claiming that the organisation glossed over the important issue of repetitive head trauma on players. The outcome of the case resulted in Top NFL officials recognising the connection between brain trauma in football and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).
In the UK, similar criticism has been raised within the Rugby Union and more specifically the World Rugby’s Independent Concussion Advisory Group. The group introduced heavier sanctions for ‘high tackles’, with the aim of reducing the number of concussions in Rugby.
Looking at football in more detail, the last World Cup saw its fair share of head injuries and collisions, with the whole world watching on.
Uruguay’s Alvaro Pereira was completely unconscious for more than 10 seconds but went on to argue with medics and match officials, eventually being allowed to play on.
Similarly, Christoph Kramer from Germany received a blow to the head but again was allowed to continue in the match.
In direct comparison, Wayne Rooney was sent off the pitch and ruled out of play following a head injury sustained during training. It is this inconsistent protocol, combined with the lack of an obvious physical injury that is causing confusion, rather than the clarity needed when it comes to responsibilities over player safety.
Difference between a head injury and a brain injury in sport
Any type of injury sustained to the head should be treated and assessed by a medical professional. Tests and diagnostics would be performed to determine whether the injury should be classed as a head injury or brain injury.
A ‘head injury’ is defined as damage caused to the skull and head. Injuries can include fractures, cuts and bruising – but none of this will damage the delicate brain tissue within the skull.
A ‘brain injury’ is when an accident or blow causes damage to tissues of the brain itself. This can be caused in a number of ways, including the brain hitting the skull or a small fragment of bone lodging itself into the brain as a result of a brain fracture. The symptoms and severity can vary depending on the nature of the incident.
In sport, understanding the difference is particularly important as pitch side injury assessments have to be quick and accurate with the right decision made by the medical professional.
What is a pitch-side head injury assessment?
The following guidelines have been developed by the Rugby Union for first response teams to use when it comes to assessing the severity of a head or brain injury and taking the right course of action in the minutes after the accident.
Answering easy questions: Player must correctly answer a series of simple questions including What venue are we at? Which half is it?
Immediate memory test: Player must remember and repeat a sequence of five words.
Memory and sequence: Player must remember sequences of numbers and repeat them in reverse.
Balance evaluation: Player must walk by putting one foot directly behind the other.
Symptom checklist: A doctor checks for symptoms including a headache, nausea and blurred vision.
Recollection: Player is asked to remember words from immediate memory test.
Clinical Checks: Doctor checks for clinical signs like drowsiness and emotional distress.
Making a brain injury or head injury claim
Unfortunately, it seems that brain injuries are an unavoidable side of contact sports, but what happens when the brain injury is career ending for a player as a result of negligence?
Professional sports players earn their income and support themselves through sports. Negligence causing a head injury which leaves them unable to play can be devastating for both the player and their immediate family,
A sports injury claim could include compensation for all future lost earnings and if that accident led to death, the family would be able to make a claim on the behalf of the player and receive compensation for their loss.
For professional sportsmen to have a chance of launching a successful claim for personal injury, it is important for the Claimant to show that there was a ‘breach of a legal duty to take care’ which resulted in damage.