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Brain injury research suggests concussions cause greater damage

Residents of Atlanta may be interested to read about a new study that provides evidence that concussions cause longer-lasting brain damage than previously thought.

Traditionally, doctors measure the negative effects of concussions based on the patient's self-reporting. In other words, doctors usually determine the seriousness of the brain trauma based on patient complaints about things such as headaches, disorientation and memory loss.

This study suggests, however, that brain injury exists even after cognitive abilities return. Researchers examined two groups of athletes, one with concussions and one without. Using a motor-evoked potentials test, the group's reaction time was tested by placing an electrode on a subject's limb. After a small stimulation to the brain, the subjects were tested to see how long it took for the response to reach the subject's limb. The group with concussions showed a slower response time than those without a concussion even when the former did not self-report any cognitive impairment.

This development could have far-reaching legal implications. A person may be liable for damages if he or she injures someone. Generally, the extent of the injury determines the amount of damages. If a particular class of injury, such as concussions, is found to have farther reaching implications than previously thought, then the person at fault may correspondingly be responsible for greater damages.

In addition to liability for medical bills, pain and suffering generally associated with concussions, this new knowledge could eventually lead to liability for reduced functioning. This would likely include damages for the cost of therapy as well.

Every person's medical situation is different. Also, every state has its own rules governing how much one can recover and for what types of injuries. One would need to consult an attorney to properly meet Georgia's burden of proof that a long-term brain injury indeed occurred.

Finally, it would be difficult to justify greater liability solely on this study because it is so recent. Studies have to be reviewed and replicated for their results to gain widespread acceptance. However, this study could be the first step in further understanding the intricacies of concussions and developing a greater legal understanding of long-term liability.

Source: Science Daily,"Effects of a Concussion May Last Longer Than Symptoms," Feb. 29, 2012

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