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Buffalo-Area Hockey Coach Succumbs To Brain Injury

by | Jan 4, 2019 | Brainerd, Firm News, Personal Injury

A St. Michael pee-wee hockey coach who slipped on the ice in November has died. What lessons does this tragedy have for Brainerd personal injury lawyers?

In November 2018, Coach Harv Graczyk’s skate caught a groove in the ice, and he fell on his head. Coach Graczyk was wearing a helmet, but he may not have fastened the chin strap. He lingered in the hospital for almost a month before he succumbed to his injury.

Coach Graczyk’s son Blake commented on the incident. “It’s just that it happens that quickly,” he said “You don’t think of it happening to you and when it does, it can be catastrophic like it is in this case. It happens in a blink of an eye.”

What Causes Brain Injuries?

Sports-related incidents only cause a few brain injuries in Minnesota. But that may be because doctors are only beginning to understand these injuries.

It’s now clear that the problem goes well beyond unfortunate falls like the one in the above story. In November 2018, over 100 retired National Hockey League players reached a $19 million settlement with the league over head injuries. Doctors believe that the cumulative effects of small hits, as opposed to one big hit, may be the primary cause of sports-related brain injuries.

Youth hockey is obviously not the same as professional hockey, but at all levels, players are extremely aggressive and referees sometimes let the players play. Many parents thought they were raising a generation of athletes. Instead, they may have unintentionally raised a generation of victims.

Overall, almost three million people a year visit American hospital emergency rooms following head injuries. Car crashes cause the most of these incidents, largely because these events include all three causes of brain injuries:

  • Trauma: Airbags and seatbelts offer some protection against some head injuries. But these systems have their limits. For example, a high-speed car crash transforms loose objects, like cell phones, into high-speed missiles.
  • Motion: The sudden, whip cracking-like motion in car crashes causes a number of head injuries. It’s possible to scramble the brain without breaking the skull, just like it’s possible to scramble an egg without breaking the shell. Motion-related head injuries may be common, but they are also difficult to diagnose. This point is explored below.
  • Noise: Many witnesses liken the noise of a car crash to an explosive blast. Researchers now know that these sudden loud noises create shock waves that disrupt brain functions. That’s one reason so many Afghanistan and Iraq War veterans sustain head injuries.

Assaults also cause many head injuries. These incidents are intentional torts as opposed to negligent acts, so Brainerd personal injury lawyers approach these matters differently.

What Are Some Brain Injury Diagnosis and Treatment Issues?

Early diagnosis of brain injuries is critical. Yet in somewhere around 90 percent of the aforementioned ER visits, doctors send head injury patients home instead of treating them.

Many head injuries, especially motion-related head injuries, lack signature symptoms, such as unconsciousness and vomiting. Furthermore, doctors often misdiagnose head injuries. If the victim was in a car crash, doctors sometimes dismiss symptoms like disorientation and headaches as shock from the accident. Many people do not receive treatment until they begin showing advanced symptoms, like personality changes, sleeplessness, and intense headaches. By that time, more brain cells have died, and recovery is much more difficult.

That treatment is difficult enough. Brain injuries are permanent. Once brain cells die, they never regenerate. However, after extensive physical therapy, neighboring parts of the brain learn to assume lost functions.

Physical therapy for a broken arm is almost nothing like physical therapy for an injured brain. In broken arm cases, the therapist just needs to strengthen and retrain existing muscles. But if the patient has a serious brain injury, that patient must often relearn walking, eating, talking, and other everyday functions.

This process is often long and frustrating. Progress is slow and occurs in fits and starts. It’s very important that the patient does not give up, and it’s also very important that a Brainerd personal injury lawyer keep fighting. Otherwise, the insurance company may try to end therapy too soon.

What Compensation Can a Brainerd Personal Injury Lawyer Obtain?

In brain injury cases, medical expenses often top $100,000. Most health insurance companies will not pay these costs, and most families do not have the money to cover them. Additionally, since the victim is out of work, unpaid bills pile up. All the while, the emotional impact of the injury makes it hard to carry on.

Brainerd personal injury lawyers can obtain compensation for both economic and noneconomic damages. So, victims have more than the financial resources they need to get better. As closely as possible, the money puts them back in the position they were before the injury. Money cannot turn back the clock, but it can make the victim’s present circumstances easier to accept.

Count on Experienced Attorneys

Brain injury victims may be entitled to significant compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd personal injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Wright County and nearby jurisdictions.