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Awareness of the effects of brain injuries on children playing sports has increased dramatically over the past decade. According to brain injury statistics from the CDC, emergency room visits for traumatic brain injuries (TBI) increased by more than 70% between 2001 and 2010, with the greatest jump occurring between 2007 and 2008 (35% year-over-year), followed by another 16% jump between 2008 and 2010. This has correlated with a 7.5% drop in death rate from TBI over the same period. The hospitalization rate for head injuries has remained relatively stable.

Sports & recreational activities risk traumatic brain injury

The sudden retirement of San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland in March of 2015 has renewed the dialogue about whether football is too dangerous for kids. In making his announcement after only one professional season, the 24-year-old University of Wisconsin graduate proclaimed it’s not “worth the risk” to his brain health to continue playing.

Concussions in the NFL have been a major topic for several years, prompting many parents to withhold their children from participating in youth and high school football. However, brain injuries are not isolated to the football field. Head injuries have become a point of concern in baseball and softball, spurred by severe concussions suffered by a number of star players.

The 2007 death of 35-year-old minor league coach Mike Coolbaugh, who was struck in the head by a foul ball, stunned players and fans alike. In December 2012, former major league player Ryan Freel committed suicide and was subsequently diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) as a result of multiple head injuries suffered throughout his career.

Pitchers are at particular risk of getting hit in the head by a batted ball. Some pitchers, including San Diego Padres reliever Alex Torres, have opted to wear a padded cap for extra protection, but the vast majority of players at all levels continue to pitch with no added protection. Traumatic sports injuries to most Americans occur outside organized leagues and strike at all levels of society. Hollywood mourned Natasha Richardson in 2009 following a seemingly minor head injury that later resulted in her death.

According to a 2014 brain injury report from the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, football was the second-leading cause of head injury-related emergency room visits in the United States in 2009, both overall and among children under the age of 14. In both categories, bicycling sent nearly twice the number of people to the ER compared to football. Speak to a daycare negligence lawyer if your child has suffered an athletic injury while in the care of others.

Number of brain injury-related ER visits by sport

A database compiled by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission says twelve sporting activities sent at least 10,000 Americans to the emergency room in 2009:

  • Cycling: 85,389
  • Football: 46,948
  • Baseball & Softball: 38,394
  • Basketball: 34,692
  • Water Sports: 28,716
  • ATVs, Go-Carts, etc.: 26,606
  • Soccer: 24,184
  • Skateboarding: 23,114
  • Fitness/Exercise: 18,012
  • Winter Sports: 16,948
  • Horseback Riding: 14,466
  • Gymnastics/Cheerleading: 10,223
  • Golf: 10,035

According to the same CPSC database, six of these sports sent more than 10,000 children under the age of 14 to the emergency room:

  • Cycling: 40,272
  • Football: 21,878
  • Baseball & Softball: 18,246
  • Basketball: 14,952
  • Skateboarding: 14,783
  • Water Sports: 12,843

These numbers reflect reported cases of head injuries that resulted in emergency room visits. It does not include cases treated by family doctors, at home or left untreated. Head injuries are known to be significantly underreported.

ER visits, hospitalizations and deaths from traumatic brain injury

The following table tracks the rate of emergency room visits, hospitalization and death directly related to head injuries per 10,000 people in the United States between 2001 and 2010:

2001  42 8.3  1.8 
2002  43.4 8.6  1.8 
2003  42.3 9.5  1.8 
2004  48.6 9.8  1.8 
2005  50.5 9.3  1.9 
2006  47.9 9.9  1.8 
2007  45.7 9.2  1.8 
2008  61.6 9.5  1.8 
2009  67.7 9.8  1.7 
2010  71.6 9.2  1.7 

Injuries are not “just part of the game”

Severe sports injuries are a source of unending fear, uncertainty and doubt for athletes in organized competitions, as well as weekend warriors. The question is not just “Will I ever play again?” It becomes a matter of how your life will change permanently. In nearly all cases, insurance won’t cover the full cost of medical bills, lost wages and other costs associated with severe athletic injury. Most sports-related injuries are entirely preventable. No one should be forced to suffer the consequences of another person’s negligence with only the hollow consolation “it’s just part of the game.”

If you, a loved one or child have been injured while biking, playing an organized sport or simply enjoying recreational activities, talk to the sports injury lawyers at Warshafsky Law Firm. No other law firm in Milwaukee can match the skill and professionalism of our in-house investigation team. Our experience lets us find liabilities other lawyers don’t see or simply ignore. Insurance companies will do whatever they can to avoid paying you what you deserve when you’ve been hurt. At Warshafsky, we know when insurance companies are trying to lowball you and will fight for what's right.

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