Evidence is growing that any hit to the head — from a car accident or a sports injury — can prove devastating in later life.

In autumn of 2013, the National Football League (NFL) settled a class action suit brought by players who alleged the league knew far more than it shared about the neurological danger of concussion. In early 2014, a federal judge rejected the settlement as insufficient to treat the thousands of parties to the action.

Also in early 2014, research revealed a diagnosis of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in Ryan Freel, a deceased major league football player and Patrick Grange, a deceased soccer player. Mr. Freel suffered several concussions in his career before taking his life at 36. Mr. Grange, who died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) at 29, suffered only one major concussion but was a skilled header, a player who hit the soccer ball using his head.

Current research tells us that clues to the development of CTE include the following:

Force or trauma to the brain causes changes in the ventricular system of the brain. The four ventricles in the brain contain cerebrospinal fluid that protects the brain and aids in biological signaling.
There is no known safe level or quantity of brain trauma. The damage of subconcussive trauma, or an injury not severe enough to cause loss of consciousness, may not appear in diagnostic imaging studies, but is registered in the altered function of brain tissue.
As changes to the ventricle system progress, brain anatomy transforms. In addition to permanently altering emotional and physical function, diffuse plaque deposits form in the brain, a trademark of the presence of CTE during autopsy.

Given the immaturity of brain structures, recent studies suggest athletes who suffer concussion at younger ages are at higher risk for degenerative brain disorders as they age.

No concussion is minor. If you or a loved one are injured in an accident on or off the sports field, speak with an experienced injury attorney in Cleveland.