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Seemingly minor impacts can lead to serious brain injury

As modern medicine learns more and more about the devastating effects of brain injuries, society's understanding of the types of impacts that can lead to brain injuries is expanding. For example, medical experts are now recommending that soccer players keep track of the number of times they hit the ball with their head, or "head butt" it, in order to prevent traumatic brain injuries and resulting mental disorders such as memory loss, dementia, and depression. While football and hockey garner most of the Los Angeles public's attention for causing traumatic brain injuries, soccer also requires that the head be used almost as much as the feet to propel the ball down the field.

A recently released study from New York City's Albert Einstein College of Medicine confirmed the long-suspected link between head-butting and serious brain injury by studying high-tech scans of the brains of 37 adult league soccer players. The study found that players who headed the ball the most frequently had the lowest scores in terms of memory and lower scores on the health of the brain's white matter. However, the study found that players could head-butt the ball approximately 1,800 times before experiencing cognitive problems, and that some players were more sensitive than others to brain damage from the maneuver.

The key to preventing memory loss, dementia and depression is likely early recognition of symptoms and prompt treatment. Just as an athlete may not notice any symptoms in the period immediately after an impact to the head, a car accident victim might feel fine with no broken bones or other outwardly visible injuries. However, an accident victim who exhibits confusion, nausea, a bad headache or even who feels unusually sleepy should seek medical attention right away. Over the long term, brain injuries can seriously impact a victim's ability to work or even to continue living independently.

Brain injury victims are likely to require long-term care and rehabilitation which insurance may not cover completely, if at all. Any Los Angeles residents concerned about a head or brain injury - particularly when another party's negligence caused the injury - should consider speaking with a legal professional about their rights and options.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "To prevent brain damage, soccer players should keep 'head counts'", Brad Balukjian, June 11, 2013

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