Here at our Phoenix Personal Injury Law Firm, our clients often complain of symptoms of concussion (or Traumatic Brain Injury) after a motor vehicle accident. Even with current safety devices, occupants of a car can strike their heads against a hard surface and sustain a mild to severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). In some cases, the person does not strike their head but the rapid acceleration/deceleration causes the injury. In fact, motor vehicle crashes were the second leading cause of TBI-related deaths (26%) during 2006-2010.
The immediate symptoms of a TBI include headache; nausea and vomiting; unconsciousness or feelings of being dazed, confused and disoriented; fatigue and drowsiness; either sleeping more than usual or having difficulty sleeping; and dizziness or loss of balance. There may also be sensory problems such as blurred vision, ringing in the ears, a bad taste in the mouth or inability to smell, as well as sensitivity to light or sound. However, the long-term symptoms are the most worrisome because they include memory and concentration deficits, mood changes or mood swings, and depression and/or anxiety.
It is estimated that the symptoms can last a few days or weeks to the remainder of the person's life. TBIs are of increasing concern to medical specialists as research is pointing to a connection of TBIs, especially more than one TBI, to epilepsy, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and other brain disorders that become more prevalent as the person ages.
It is of utmost importance that the person who has sustained a traumatic brain injury, even a mild one, must realize that it is a serious condition and must not be shrugged off as “just a concussion.” The person must get lots of rest and not rush back into school or work immediately. The person with a TBI must not drive a car, ride or bike or use heavy equipment until the doctor says it is safe to do so because his/her reaction time will be slower than normal. The person must avoid reinjuring his/her brain because repeated TBI occurring in a short period of time can be catastrophic or even fatal. The person will not be allowed to drink alcoholic beverages or to take medications not prescribed by the physician during the healing period. If the TBI is serious, the person may have to re-learn skills used in activities of daily living before he/she becomes fully functional.
What actually occurs when a crash victim strikes his/her head against a part of the vehicle? The force of the blow pushes the brain against the interior of the skull, causing brain cells to stretch and tear and altering the electrical and chemical balances critical for cell function and communication. The rapid stretching caused by TBIs makes axons in the brain (the long fibers that allow cells to communicate) swell and become less able to send and receive signals. If there are repeated TBIs, the connections among cells can to permanently impaired. Recent media attention to TBIs in professional athletes and military personnel will undoubtedly encourage more research, and perhaps one day, medical care will be more precise at determining the optimal healing time for each and every brain-injured person