By Cynthia P. Carels, of Miller Thomson
Concussion, the latest movie by actor Will Smith, opened in theatres across North America over the recent holiday season, and has stirred up plenty of discussion about head injuries. The story behind the movie focuses on the research of Dr. Bennet Omalu, regarding the damage professional football players in the NFL were suffering from repeated hits to the head. In 2015, a federal court judge approved a class-action lawsuit settlement agreement applying to thousands of NFL players who developed serious medical conditions as a result of their career-related head trauma.
In Canada, a 2015 Coroner’s Inquest in Ontario also examined the issue of concussion in the context of sport. 17 year old Rowan Kerry Stringer, the captain of her Varsity rugby team, passed away on May 12, 2013 after a series of game related head injuries caused severe swelling to her brain. In the Stringer Inquest, concussion was described as “an invisible injury … often not recognized as being a serious condition with potentially severe consequences, despite many initiatives to change this perspective.” These consequences can include (amongst other things) headaches, sensitivity to light and sound, impaired attention span, mood swings, memory loss, and even death.
Many strides have been made in our understanding of Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) since the events depicted in Concussion. Even still, it can be challenging to sort out their impact in the context of a personal injury claim. Plaintiffs may have pre-existing conditions at play that have been aggravated by an accident. Some victims may even be in denial about their symptoms, or have no personal insight, while their family members complain about significant personality changes after a loved one’s trauma.
Neuropsychologists are experts with specialized training regarding brain structure and systems and their connection to behaviour and thinking. Neuropsychological testing can be very helpful in determining the damages a head injury has caused, and how it may impact a victim’s career, home life, and even recreational activities.