Earlier this year, I wrote about The Hidden Dangers of Head Injury in Sport. The latest chapter on the risk of concussion in sport comes from the unlikely activity of cheerleading. This is not a sport you would normally associate with head injuries but surprisingly injury and concussion can often occur. The cheerleader will generally be close to or indeed on the field of play so even if the game is not actually in full swing, a stray pass of a ball during practice or an over enthusiastic tackle of a player can easily lead to injury of those standing nearby.
A former university student of UC Berkeley in California is currently suing the university for multiple brain injuries suffered whilst cheerleading. Cheerleader Melissa Martin alleges that her injuries were not given the appropriate medical attention and she was treated by her coaches with disdain and indifference when she complained about headaches.
Over the course of a few months, Melissa Martin sustained three concussions. Despite being under doctor's orders not to continue with cheerleading, her coaches insisted that she continue and made little or no effort to investigate the extent of the concussion suffered. Further, within a few months of these three separate injuries, Melissa suffered a further head injury as a result of being hit by a basketball during the warm up of a game.
Concussion, is, of course, more dangerous as it is difficult at times to diagnose and even be sure that a head knock has taken place. It can lead to many and varied symptoms. At the minor end of the spectrum, it can lead to headaches, drowsiness and momentary loss of balance. At the serious end, it can lead to loss of consciousness, severe disorientation, vomiting, fits, blurred and double vision as well as deafness in one or both ears. At whatever end of the spectrum it is on, it is a condition which requires to be treated and quickly.
Throughout the recent Rugby World Cup, you may have noted that if there was a suspicion a player had sustained a head knock he was immediately sent from the field of play for a Head Injury Assessment ("HIA"). This involves a series of checks to determine if they player is suffering from concussion and, if so, the severity of it.
It has been good to see that this protocol is strictly adhered to. If there is a head knock or a suspicion of one, the player must leave the pitch to be assessed by the attending doctor. After the match, any player assessed by the HIA protocol must undergo a further evaluation within 3 hours of the injury. This evaluation comprises a check of symptoms, memory assessment and balance evaluation. Thereafter, at a period of 36-48 hours, the player will be assessed again. There will also be a post-match video review process. Depending on the findings of this review, the reviewer may recommend further education and training for the club and/or the team management.
It does seem that Melissa Martin perhaps suffered not only from the injuries but also perhaps a prejudice on the part of the coaches who did not consider that cheerleading could lead to significant head injuries. The fact is that many varied sports can lead to head injuries even if they are not full contact sports. It is a huge step forward that the World Rugby Union has considered it appropriate to put in place concussion protocols but also to ensure that they are followed to the letter on all occasions. It will likely have been obvious to anyone watching the World Cup over the past few months that if there is any suggestion of a head knock then the protocol is immediately brought into play.
Whilst such protocols do not apply to other sports where head injuries are at risk, now is the time to change that and put in place equally rigorous protocols across all sports where the risk is real. There is no doubt that such protocols can save lives.
Here at Calio Claims, we are fully aware of the obligations on teams and governing bodies to ensure that all injured players are dealt with appropriately when sustaining a head injury. An early diagnosis of the injury is critically important. Unfortunately, not all of those in charge of the welfare of players are aware of their responsibilities. That needs to change and quickly.
If you have been the victim of a sporting injury and you believe you may have a claim on the basis that the appropriate treatment was not provided to you in the appropriate timescale then please complete our online enquiry form or call us on 0800 988 8082 and a member of our team will get back to you shortly.