The Canadian Bar Association
Personal Injury

Concussion awareness essential to prevention, treatment

Concussion awareness has come a long way but it’s still important to take careful safety precautions and seek immediate medical attention if concussion symptoms are suspected, Toronto critical injury lawyer Alison Burrison tells What She Said! on the Jewel Radio Network. WATCH the interview

Known as the “invisible injury,” concussions often aren’t evident on an MRI or CT scan but can result in damaged blood vessels, reducing blood flow to the brain, says Burrison, partner with McLeish Orlando LLP. That's what makes the brain more vulnerable to a second concussion — sometimes making it fatal, she tells hosts Christine Bentley and Kate Wheeler.

If single concussions are managed properly, taking into account medical advice on when to return safely to daily activities or sports, most people can live symptom-free within 18 months to two years, Burrison says.

“With moderate to mild traumatic brain injuries and concussions, it’s only about 15 per cent that their symptoms don’t fully resolve,” she says.

“If there’s a second concussion or subsequent ones after that, where someone hasn’t fully had the chance for their brain to heal, that’s where you’re seeing serious injuries, serious brain injuries develop after, and in some cases fatal ones.”

There is a growing awareness of the accumulative danger of concussions, thanks to films such as Concussion, about NFL football players, and the introduction of Rowan’s Law, in memory of a young Ottawa woman who died after suffering several concussions while playing lacrosse, Burrison says. The law mandates the creation of a committee to act on recommendations from the Rowan Stringer coroner’s inquest.

Head-to-head contact in sports may make players more susceptible to brain trauma, she says, and there will be a greater risk if athletes who suffer head injuries are not removed from the sport until they recover, Burrison says.

Still, that doesn’t mean people should avoid contact sports altogether, she adds.

“I’m a big advocate that sport brings a lot of positive things to kids and young adults, and I believe they still should be participating in it," with education on the latest research and safety protocols, she says. “The safety equipment that can be used in these sports is an absolute must.”

Burrison suggests parents educate themselves on signs of a possible concussion, including headaches and “dazed and confused” behaviour.

“Make sure you’re aware of what other symptoms you should be looking for in case there has been a head injury you didn’t witness and are not aware of,” she says.

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