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Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) in Clemson Hazing Case


A former Clemson University soccer player filed a lawsuit against former soccer team members for injuries she suffered, including a traumatic brain injury. According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff was subjected to hazing in August 2011, which included being kidnapped, forced into the trunk of a car, and made to perform humiliating and demeaning acts. The lawsuit alleges that the plaintiff, along with other freshmen players, was driven around to several locations for 30 minutes, taken to a field and ordered to sprint blindfolded after being spun around in circles. The blindfolded plaintiff sprinted away from the field and collided face-first with a brick wall.

Prevalence of TBI

TBIs occur with alarming frequency in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 1.7 million TBIs occur in the United States annually. TBIs account for 1,365,000 emergency room visits, and result in 275,000 hospitalizations. Sadly, 52,000 TBIs result in death.

Additionally, the causes of TBIs, as reported by the CDC, are telling. Falls are the leading case, with the highest rates belonging to children between 0 and 4 years old and for adults 75 years and older. Falls resulted in over 523,000 emergency room visits and over 62,000 hospitalizations. However, when it comes to TBI-related fatalities, motor vehicle injuries are the leading cause of TBI-related death particularly for adults aged 20 to 24 years old.

According to a report by the Brain Injury Association of South Carolina, 61,000 South Carolinians have a TBI-related disability, which includes physical, cognitive, and behavioral limitations. Falls and motor vehicle crashes are the leading causes of TBI-related fatalities in the state, and each year 1,300 South Carolinians will sustain a life-long TBI-related disability.

Proving TBI

TBI occurs at various levels of severity and may result in a variety of physical, cognitive and emotional challenges faced by people who often have to live with those challenges for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately, any blunt force to the head can cause TBI, but the symptoms are not immediately apparent. The injured party is not always in the optimal position to notice the extent of the injury and in many cases, the symptoms of personality changes. To be sure, impaired cognitive function or other problems are first noticed by family members, close friends, or coworkers.

The plaintiff needs to show that the type of trauma he or she suffered is known to be the cause of a particular condition and provide evidence of how the symptoms evolved. It is well known that not all symptoms of a TBI develop at the time of the initial trauma, and may take days or weeks to manifest. The initial onset of nausea and vomiting soon after impact are the classic presenting signs of a concussion. The confusion and other symptoms that develop over the next two weeks can also generally be attributed to the original injury. A qualified medical expert can provide an opinion that the trauma produced the symptoms that eventually manifested.

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