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Second Impact Syndrome is a fairly recently discovered phenomenon and is still subject to research. There are however already widely reported and important implications for those who have suffered an initial head injury and concussion. Anyone who has suffered a head injury and concussion as a result, should be made aware of the risk of suffering a second head injury.
Where a head injury is caused by an accident that was not your fault, or that of your family member, you may be entitled to make a head injury claim.
Onset of Second Impact Syndrome
Second impact syndrome occurs when a second head injury is suffered following an earlier concussion which has not had sufficient time to heal. The brain’s reaction to this secondary head injury – even if it is not as serious as the first – can lead to rapid, severe swelling and additional symptoms ranging from cognitive or intellectual difficulties, through to death.
What is Concussion?
Concussion is medically defined as a sudden, transient loss of consciousness resulting in a period of amnesia (memory loss) following a significant blow to the head. A number of symptoms can occur within 4 weeks of the injury including the likes of headaches, dizziness, fatigue, insomnia, irritability as well as problems with alcohol intolerance. Problems with thought processing and concentration are also frequently observed.
Some physicians prefer to differentiate between “simple” and “complex” concussions, with health complications only persisting 10 days post-event in reference to the latter.
How Are Concussions Diagnosed?
Experts agree that anyone suspected of having suffered a concussion should undergo examination by a doctor, who should be able to perform the necessary tests to determine whether or not this is the case, or at the very least refer the patient to a specialist who is able to do so.
The majority of diagnostic testing is centered around decision-making, attention and memory-testing exercises. In some cases, high-tech equipment may be used to produce brain scans and identify potentially problematic abnormalities.
How Can Second Impact Syndrome be Avoided?
Where it is apparent that someone has sustained a significant head injury, it is important to look out for symptoms that could indicate concussion. This can include the likes of disorientation, vomiting, memory loss, headache, fatigue, nausea, confusion, ringing ears, sleep disturbance, slurred speech, irritability or unexplained changes in personality.
Where any of these symptoms are observed, it is crucial that the victim be kept out of situations where a second head injury could be sustained, as this could lead to second impact syndrome, and by extension; serious brain injury.
What Groups Are at Risk of Second Impact Syndrome?
Groups most commonly identified as being at risk of second impact syndrome are those who regularly engage in activities which expose them to risk of heavy impacts – namely athletes who engage in high speed or contact sports such as boxing, rugby, skiing or motor racing for example.
Anyone at elevated risk of sustaining (or who has already sustained) a head injury though is at increased risk of second impact syndrome. Care home residents and the elderly should also be monitored, particularly those at risk of falls. Hospital or care home patients that have suffered a recent fall causing a head injury should be closely monitored so a second injury is avoided. Care home negligence claims and hospital negligence claims may be made where carers fail to identify patients at risk of falls, or fail to take adequate steps to prevent falls.
In the event that you or a family member suffers a concussion, doctors should promptly diagnose the affliction and advise the patient to change their behaviour in the short-term until such a time as the head injury has fully healed. Where such measures are prescribed and adopted, the risk of a second head injury, and therefore of second impact syndrome, can be successfully mitigated and normal life eventually resumed.
Where concussion is not diagnosed and the individual not advised to rein in their behaviour or avoid situations that might cause a second had injury (a return to sport too soon for instance) the risks associated with second impact syndrome are elevated, and victims may be entitled to make head injury compensation claim to help deal with the consequences.