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Kids' brain injuries from sports can be lethal

With Super Bowl LIII officially over, another sports season draws to a close. This might be a good time for South Louisiana residents to reconsider their children's participation in football and other contact sports in 2019 and beyond.

Gridiron stars are worshipped here in the south. Each summer, kids from all walks of life with athletic talent and that intangible quality coaches call "heart" run foot drills and mix it up against weighted tackling dummies under the relentless sun and intolerable heat, waiting for their moments to shine under the lights on football fields all over the region. But could they be risking their futures with every hit?

Fallout may be long-lasting

New discoveries in the field of neurological research indicate that childhood brain trauma causes reduced functioning and learning deficits. Cognition, language and motor skills may all be adversely affected by blows to the head on the playing fields and elsewhere.

Even worse, the damage may be semipermanent. One Australian researcher discovered that kids who suffered brain injuries had difficulties with cognition for as long as a decade post-trauma. When you consider a 10- or 11-year-old child who suffers a sports-related head injury, that child could be functioning with cognitive deficits throughout the remainder of their school careers, including college.

Young TBI patients studied

Researchers monitored 40 kids between the ages of 2 and 7 who had been diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). They all submitted to behavioral, cognitive and social skill tests shortly after their injuries. Then, researchers followed up with post-TBI tests at 3, 6 and 18 months and again at 5 and 10 years.

To no one's surprise, the kids whose TBIs were the worst had the highest number of neurological deficits. Kids with less severe injuries had fewer problems but still experienced a lag in the executive functioning skills like reasoning, organizing and planning. It was thought that these were the most affected because they all take place in the brain's frontal region, the location most affected in TBIs.

When this area is affected, the children's still-developing brains slow down their progress and may never catch up with the development of their uninjured peers.

A killing blow

The family of a former high school football team member in another southern state has only their memories to sustain them through the loss of their son and relative. A linebacker for the Pike County High School Pirates in Zebulon, Georgia, died two days after suffering what was initially not perceived to be a serious blow to the head during a football game last fall.

After taking a mid-game hit from a player on the opposing team, the injured player shook it off and headed back onto the field. A few minutes later when he took the bench, he collapsed after losing sensation in his leg and arm.

His brain continued to swell dangerously despite two surgeries and he succumbed to his injuries on the Sunday following the Friday night injury.

Was your child's brain-injured playing sports?

If your child suffered a sports-related TBI that left them with lingering damage, you may be able to file a claim for compensation of their losses and other damages.

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