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Chronic Brain Injury: Where Are We Now?

Posted On 02/07/14

For athletes young and old, the frightening prospect of brain injury looms over athletic fields and sports arenas. With recent media coverage of National Football League (NFL) and National Hockey League (NHL) concussion lawsuits, the link between repeated blows to the head and serious future brain damage has become impossible to ignore. So to what compensation are these athletes entitled? And where do we stand in terms of recognizing and treating this type of traumatic brain injury?

Last autumn, the NFL agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit by former players for $765 million. In January, the presiding judge rejected the settlement because of concerns about funding over the agreement’s 65-year term.

The lawsuit sought compensation for chronic brain damage, among other disorders, suffered by former NFL players, including the following conditions:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)

The implications of the NFL case have trickled down to other professional sports like the NHL, and to college, secondary and elementary school sports. In fact, more than 200 former hockey players are now involved in a similar lawsuit against the NHL. The growing understanding of head injury and the long-term risks of concussion are certain to change how football and other collision sports are played in the future.

In the last year, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) developed an imaging procedure to identify abnormal proteins clustered in the brains of still-living patients. Formerly, disorders like CTE could be diagnosed only after death. As other institutions develop similar tests, patients of all ages suffering sports or trauma-related brain injury are hoping not only for diagnosis, but also for effective treatment.

At present, no cure exists for traumatic or chronic brain injury, but research continues. The high-profile suffering of professional athletes has raised awareness and demand to develop new technologies for understanding and treating TBI. Government and international initiatives are also in the works.

Better understanding of brain injury means being better able to deal with its effects and to plan for lifetime medical costs. If you or a family member suffers TBI in Phoenix, an experienced injury attorney can help you seek the compensation you need.