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Long-Term Effects of Repeated Brain Injuries

Updated February 20, 2021 | By Wilson Kehoe Winingham staff

Concussions and other brain injuries are very common, especially for those who play contact sports like football. Since 2012, NFL’s total concussions vary between 206-281 per year, including preseason and regular season. In college football, at least 34% have suffered from a single concussion, while 20% of players have experienced two or more concussions.

Shaking off a hard knock to the head is a norm in football. Players have so much adrenaline and drive to continue to compete that they might not even notice any pain or side effects until hours, days, weeks, months, or even years after the injury.

Long-Term Effects

Sustaining repeated head injuries isn’t just damaging in the present-day lives of players; the long-term effects of repetitive brain trauma can lead to two particularly frightening diseases and syndromes: chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and second impact syndrome (SIS).

While athletes who participate in contact sports are more likely to fall victim, don’t be fooled: Anyone who suffers from repeated head trauma can eventually develop CTE and SIS. So far, research surrounding CTE, in particular, has been conducted on deceased National Football League (NFL) players who donated their bodies to research. A study released in October 2015 reported that of the 91 former NFL players who donated their brains, 87 of those brains tested positive for CTE.

What Is Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)?

CTE is an incurable degenerative brain disease found primarily in athletes with a history of repeated brain trauma. A football player competing through high school, college, and a professional career could obtain tens of thousands of blunt hits.

Signs and Symptoms of CTE

Football players who have CTE typically don’t show any signs or symptoms for years, sometimes even decades, after their last concussion or brain injury. However, symptoms of CTE may include the following:

  • Confusion
  • Impaired judgment
  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty controlling impulses
  • Depression, anxiety, suicidal tendencies, and other mood disorders
  • Progressive dementia

Because these signs and symptoms are common for a myriad of other diseases, it can be hard to pinpoint when they’re caused by CTE.

Diagnosis and Treatment of CTE

At this time there are no current treatment options for CTE. It’s a disease that unfortunately can’t be diagnosed until death; a thorough examination of the brain is required. With advancements in technology, thorough medical examinations can rule out other causes, making CTE more distinct for diagnosis.  If CTE is suspected, certain medicines may be used to treat memory problems or other cognitive confections as well as medicine for behavioral symptoms.

What Is Second Impact Syndrome (SIS)?

SIS is when the brain is concussed or harmed before fully recovering from a previous brain injury. The brain immediately begins to swell at rapid speed and may cause brain herniation.

SIS is not a common syndrome. But, when it does occur, it’s likely to occur in younger athletes—around high school-age. And, it doesn’t have to be onset by a catastrophic hit; it can actually be a pretty unremarkable one. The after-effects are almost always devastating, though: The likely outcome of SIS is either permanent disability or, most often, death.

Diagnosis and Treatment of SIS

The most effective way to receive an SIS diagnosis is via a CT scan. Because the effects usually take place within minutes, immediate medical attention is required. The best way to prevent SIS is to catch and treat the initial concussion. Signs of a concussion include the following:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Confusion
  • Loss of balance
  • Dizziness
  • Memory loss
  • Headache

No player should return to the game until symptoms reside in full and a licensed physician thoroughly evaluates the injured party.

Contact a Brain Injury Attorney Today

It’s nearly impossible for athletes to dodge a brain injury or concussion. If you’ve suffered a sports-related concussion or think you’re experiencing long-term side effects from past brain injuries, you are urged to contact the Indianapolis Brain Injury Attorneys of Wilson Kehoe Winingham. The lawyers at WKW can help you get the compensation you deserve. Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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