Concussions used to be a joke. You know, all those cartoons and slap stick movies with people getting knocked out, then waking up and shaking it off as if it were nothing. Ha, ha, ha! Well, it wasn’t nothing. It’s really something.
So what exactly is a concussion? It is a temporary loss of brain function caused by a blow to the head. That’s what we used to think was the end of it. But we now know that it can lead to many long-lasting physical, cognitive and emotional symptoms.
And we are finding out more and more about the hidden damage concussions can cause. Concussions are a kind of TBI (traumatic brain injury) that can lead to life-long disabilities. Take “Lou Gehrig’s disease” (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or “ALS”) for example. Yesterday’s New York Times reported that Lou Gehrig might not have actually had the disease named after him. Rather, he might have had what doctors now understand to be a TBI which manifests itself through symptoms mimicking ALS. The Times reports that those afflicted with the disease probably were predisposed to it by genetic factors, but concussions serve as the catalyst.
In my job as a Syracuse accident lawyer, I see lots of concussions. We have even handled our share of big TBI cases where the accident victim’s cognitive and social levels and skills were vastly and permanently diminished by the traumatic brain injury. The worst TBI accident case we have seen was suffered in a Central New York snowmobile collision. But they can happen in many different types of accidents, including car accidents, falls from scaffolds or ladders, and slip and falls.
In Lou Gehrig’s day, almost no one wore helmets for anything. Gehrig sustained several “knock-out” concussions from pitches that today would have been absorbed by a helmet. Today, a lot of TBI’s can be avoided by using helmets for sporting activities such as skiing, bicycling, motorcycling and baseball.
If you or a loved one has suffered a concussion in a car accident, fall down accident, sporting accident, or other kind of accident, take it seriously. It’s not like in the cartoons or the old slap stick movies. You should insist on getting a medical examination if you have any symptoms. You should be monitored for continued symptoms. Usually, the symptoms will go away in a few weeks, but if they persist, or new symptoms arise, you should have a doctor continue to monitor and test you.