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Reducing the Risks of Head Injuries for Young Athletes in New Jersey

In recent years, public awareness of the ongoing risks posed by concussions and other closed head injuries to athletes has increased. Medical research has shown that the brain is much more vulnerable to being injured again in the weeks and months following an impact to the head. Even professional competitors are enduring longer recovery periods rather than playing through fogginess, balance issues and memory loss, not to mention the possibility of permanently ending a career. New Jersey officials have taken measures to increase protections for much younger potential victims: high school athletes.

This summer, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association strengthened its concussion policy for the coming school year. The association’s guidelines call for the immediate removal from a game or practice of any athlete with a suspected concussion, and they are prohibited from further participation until a doctor determines that they are free of concussion symptoms. Parents and guardians, student athletes, and coaches must sign and submit a form that pledges adherence to the updated policy.

The policy includes a clear description of the symptoms and dangers of concussions: “A concussion is a brain injury and all brain injuries are serious. They may be caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head, or by a blow to another part of the body with the force transmitted to the head. Even though most concussions are mild, all concussions are potentially serious and may result in complications including prolonged brain damage and death if not recognized and managed properly. In other words, even a ‘ding’ or a bump on the head can be serious.”

Parents, coaches and participants who notice the symptoms or signs of a concussion are advised to seek immediate medical attention. The most obvious physical symptoms experienced by the injured teen can include vomiting, headaches, double vision and sensitivity to light or noise, but other observers should also look for abrupt changes in personality, irritability and disturbance of sleep patterns.

Meanwhile, the New Jersey Assembly has passed a bill that mandates minimum recovery times before student-athletes can resume competition after a head injury, and the state Senate will consider the bill this fall.

Coping With the Long-Term Risks of a Brain Injury

All types of closed head injuries pose significant risks to injury victims, whether they are sustained at play, in a work accident or in a motor vehicle collision. The primary risk is not taking the injury seriously enough if symptoms are not immediately obvious. In light of the current policy, coaches and school administrators have a clear duty to cautiously manage interscholastic sports programs for the safety of students.

If you or your family have been involved in an accident and suffered a closed head or brain injury, please contact one of the experienced personal injury attorneys at Rudnick, Addonizio and Pappa to learn your legal rights and remedies.

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