At any age, a blow to the head can result in a serious and life-altering brain injury. However, children who suffer concussions and other brain injuries are especially vulnerable, and the negative effects of such injuries on their developing bodies and brains may not be readily apparent until months or even years after an injury is suffered.

The negative side effects associated with traumatic brain injuries have been well documented and include physical symptoms like dizziness, nausea and fatigue as well as cognitive and behavioral deficiencies and changes. Due to the complex nature of the human brain and wide variations in how brain injury symptoms manifest, it’s virtually impossible to gauge the true number of children and adults who are living and attempting to deal with the damaging effects of TBIs.

On a recent trip to Washington D.C., a woman named Kathy Zegel spoke to members of Congress about the suicide death of her 32-year-old son, Patrick. A football enthusiast who began playing the sport at age 10, Patrick continued to play competitive football in both high school and college.

Bright, driven and outgoing; Kathy described how her son’s whole personality and character dramatically changed during his junior year in college. During that year and for seemingly no reason, Patrick became withdrawn, depressed and anxious. He struggled for years with these severe mental health challenges until he ultimately took his own life.

An autopsy of Patrick’s brain revealed that he was suffered from the degenerative brain disorder known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE. Shocked, his mother has now made it her mission to prevent other mothers from suffering a similar fate. Zegel, along with several other women who have lost children to sports-related CTE, are seeking help from members of Congress to limit “contact sports for young athletes.”

Source: CNN, “Moms to Congress: It’s time to protect kids in contact sports,” Nadia Kounang, March 16, 2016