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Toronto Personal Injury Law Blog

The long road to recovery from traumatic brain injuries

Four years ago, an Ontario mother received one of the most dreaded calls from the police. She learned that her 23-year-old son suffered catastrophic injuries when a transport truck struck him. No one expected him to survive, but his will to live and his mother's loving care brought him to a stage where he wants to help other victims of acquired brain injuries to cope with their changed circumstances.

The young man shares his story to show others that there is always hope. During a surgical procedure upon his arrival at the hospital, doctors removed a portion of his skull to relieve pressure, and he spent the next month in an induced coma. During his four-month stay in the hospital, he spent 10 weeks in a rehabilitation program.

Car accident caused life-changing brain injuries

An Ontario woman recently explained how her father is struggling to recover from a December car accident that claimed her mother's life. The collision between her father's SUV and a transport truck happened on Trans-Canada Highway, and it caused severe traumatic brain injuries. She says it is heartbreaking to see her once active father in such a weakened state.

His daughter says she rushed from Ontario to be with her father after she learned of her mother's death. She arrived to find him with multiple injuries, breathing with the aid of machines. Although he was initially put in an induced coma to prevent him from moving, he remained comatose after the medication was stopped. Reportedly, his physicians suspected that brain trauma kept him in a coma.

Coping with brain injuries can be a significant challenge

Concussions Ontario says the number of diagnosed concussions across the province in 2013 was 148,710. The group says concussions are the most frequently occurring traumatic brain injuries, and the symptoms can vary significantly. Some victims experience mostly cognitive symptoms that affect thinking and memory, while others struggle with balance, vertigo and other physical symptoms. Emotional issues are also common, and brain injury victims often suffer depression, irritability and anxiety.

A woman who suffered such an injury while working as an audience development officer at a theatre in Ontario says she is still trying to overcome the effects of the brain injuries. Two months ago, she was struck in the head by some theatre platforms, and although she remained conscious, she was later diagnosed with a severe concussion. Her symptoms cause sleeping problems, moodiness, irritability, anxiety and slow reaction time. She says she also has to deal with continuous ringing sounds in her ears, often preventing her from hearing other sounds.

Brain injuries: Do helmets and mouthguards prevent concussion?

Concussion risks for hockey players have been points of concern and multiple discussions and awareness campaigns in Ontario in recent months. Many players do not realize that concussion are brain injuries, and repeated incidents can cause permanent brain damage. Too much confidence is often put in protection such as helmets and mouthguards.

The rapid movement of the brain inside the skull causes a concussion. As it slams against the inner walls of the skull, brain cells are damaged. This could lead to dizziness, headaches and other physical symptoms along with cognitive problems with concentration, memory and more. It could also affect emotions, and some victims suffer depression after such injuries. It is a myth that concussions are only caused by blows to the head because even impact to the neck, body or face could cause a jolt of the head.

A mindset change might prevent brain injuries in hockey

An ice hockey coach, who has been involved in coaching for over 20 years, endeavours to change people's mindset toward injury prevention instead of changing the game. His coaching included all age groups and categories, from the youngest players to varsity and professional levels. He says coaches nationwide, including Ontario, have enormous influence on both players and parents. For this reason, he suggests that coaches are the ideal messengers of safer practices on sports fields in their quest to prevent brain injuries.

He is involved in the Safe4Sport Prevention Program that aims to provide all stakeholders with guidance and resources to prevent severe injuries to hockey players. These include parents, officials, administrators, coaches and players. With affiliates to stop concussions worldwide, this not-for-profit organization bases their support on research, prevention, management and education.

Bike helmets can limit the severity of brain injuries in children

In Ontario, all bicycle riders under the age of 18 have to wear protective helmets while cycling. Although helmets cannot prevent brain injuries altogether, they will limit the severity of head injuries. However, parents need to note that a bike helmet must be replaced after a fall as they are designed to withstand only one impact during a crash.

Helmets must fit tightly, and because children's heads are still growing, their helmets must be adjusted or replaced as they become older to ensure a good fit. Some parents make the mistake of purchasing a helmet that is too big initially, with the intention of letting the child grow into it. That might not be a good idea because a loose fitting helmet cannot provide the necessary protection.

Hockey leagues face lawsuit re former player's brain injuries

Awareness campaigns have made people in Ontario and other provinces and territories aware of the risks of concussions in sports. Sadly, many sports people learn about the potential for brain injuries too late. One such a case led to a lawsuit that a former captain of the Kelowna Rockets filed against the Western Hockey League, Hockey Canada and the Canadian Hockey League.

The plaintiff claims to have participated in over 200 fights as an enforcer during his hockey career that spanned from 2004 through 2014. He maintains that the hockey leagues fail to inform players of the dangers and potential long-term consequences of the brain injuries they might suffer after repeated concussions. He says he was involved in as many as 25 fights in the 2006/2007 season. He asserts that lasting damage occurred during that season, followed by more concussions caused by 11 fights in the 2007/2008 season when he was only 20 years old.

Society needs to learn how to embrace victims of brain injuries

Following some injury types, social skills must be rekindled. An excellent example is brain injuries, which are often hidden injuries that make it difficult for others to understand. They may be mistaken for a behavioural issues, and brain-injured people in Ontario might feel that they are treated like children. The reality is that these conditions are neurophysiological, not behavioral, and they typically require neuroplastic treatment along with several layers of practical, cognitive, physical and social support.

The manner in which others treat them often exacerbates the trauma suffered by victims of brain injuries. It is not uncommon for friends, family members and anyone with whom they have social contact to expect a person with an injured brain to recover and repair their social skills. The truth is that the only way for brain injury victims to maintain some level of social life is for healthy people to learn how to socialize with brain injury victims.

Brain injuries: Prompt medical care is key to injury management

Ontario is a leader in Canada when it comes to concussions in youth sports -- providing education and management guidance to help victims cope with the aftermath. The most significant myth about brain injuries to overcome is that a blow to the head causes a concussion, whereas some concussions are suffered without any impact to the head. Many concussions go untreated because people are unaware of the available rehabilitation programs.

Sometimes, concussions are not reported because the symptoms are not recognized. It is often called an invisible injury because to coaches, colleagues, friends and family, the injured person might seem fine. Symptoms and telltale signs of concussion could develop during the hours and days after the occurrence of the injury. Indications of possible brain injuries include cognitive, behavioural and physical changes.

Brain injuries: What to do if you suffered a concussion

Concussions might happen easier than what many people in Ontario realize. Concussions are brain injuries that can occur even without a blow to the head. The violent shaking of the brain inside the skull in a car accident or on the sports field can leave victims suffering from this condition. This is not something to ignore, and although most concussions heal within a short time, proper diagnosis, treatment and monitoring are crucial.

Parents are advised to explain the symptoms of concussion to their children and encourage them to tell a parent, teacher or coach. Some children keep quiet about it for fear of losing their spots on the team, but repeated trauma to the brain can have long-term consequences. A visit to the emergency room or a consultation with a physician as soon as possible is vital.

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