Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is damage to the brain caused by a sudden physical force such as a blow or jolt to the head. TBI may be caused from a direct blow to the head or from a severe shaking of the head. When the head is subjected to such a blow or to a whiplash-type situation, the brain can collide with the bony-ridged surfaces of the skull. This type of impact tears the axons (wire-like structures) and neurons connected by the axons, causing bruising and bleeding of the brain.
Traumatic Brain Injuries may range from a brief change in mental status or consciousness (mild) to an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia (severe) to death. Not all blows to the head cause TBI. Any head injury, however, should be checked out by a doctor, since TBI symptoms often do not appear immediately, and may not appear until days or weeks following an injury.
In response to a mandate from Congress, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) conducted research and produced a report called “Traumatic Brain Injury in the United States: Emergency Department Visits, Hospitalizations, and Deaths.” According to that report:
- At least 1.4 million people sustain a TBI each year in the United States;
- Of these, about 50,000 die, 235,000 are hospitalized, and 1.1 million are treated and released from an Emergency Department;
- Approximately 475,000 TBIs occur among children ages 0 to 14 years;
- Emergency Department visits account for more than 90% of the TBIs among victims ages 0 – 14 years;
- Falls are the leading cause of TBI; rates are highest for children ages 0 to 4 years and for adults age 75 years or older;
- Direct medical costs and indirect costs (such as lost productivity) of TBI are estimated at $60 billion annually. This number does not take into account returning military service personnel with TBI.
Although about 75% of TBIs that occur each year are concussions or other forms of mild TBI, the CDC estimates that at least 5.3 million Americans currently have a long-term or lifelong need for help to perform activities of daily living because of a TBI.
Symptoms of TBI
The following are some common signs and symptoms of a TBI:
- Persistent headaches or neck pain
- Difficulty making decisions, remembering things, or concentrating
- Difficulty thinking, speaking, acting, or reading
- Getting easily confused
- Getting lost
- Feeling tired all of the time
- Unexplained mood changes
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Light-headedness, dizziness, or loss of balance
- Increased sensitivity to lights, sounds, or distractions
- Blurred vision
- Loss of sense of smell or taste
- Ringing in the ears
Children will have many of the same symptoms. However, it is sometimes difficult for them to communicate this to an adult. Watch your child for any of these symptoms:
- Will not stop crying or cannot be consoled; irritability
- Will not eat or nurse
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Changes in the way the child plays
- Changes in performance at school
- Lack of interest in favorite toys or activities
- Loss of new skills, such as toilet training
- Loss of balance or unsteady walking
Brain damage generally cannot be reversed, although much functionality can often be restored through early and effective treatment. If you notice any of the above symptoms in you or a loved one, or if you or a loved one has suffered a blow to the head, go to the emergency room immediately, or call 911 for medical assistance in the case of an emergency.
Common Causes of TBI
The following are some common causes of TBI:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Snowmobile accidents
- ATV accidents
- Sports accidents while playing a contact sport, such as football, ice hockey, or boxing
- Baseball and softball accidents while batting and running bases
- In-line skates or skateboard accidents
- Assault and Battery
- Horse riding accidents
- Skiing or snowboarding accidents
In addition, senior citizens should watch out for the following:
- Tripping hazards such as throw rugs and clutter in walkways
- Slippery bathtub and shower floors
- Lack of handrails on both sides of stairways
- Elder Abuse
- Inadequate lighting throughout the home
In addition, young children are in danger of TBI from:
- Falling on playgrounds not made of shock-absorbing material, such as hardwood mulch or sand
- Falling out of open windows
- Falling down staircases
- Child Abuse
The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control provides the following general tips that can aid in recovery:
- Get lots of rest.
- Do not rush back to daily activities such as work or school.
- Avoid doing anything that could cause another blow or jolt to the head.
- Ask your doctor when it’s safe to drive a car, ride a bike, or use heavy equipment, because your ability to react may be slower after a brain injury.
- Take only the drugs your doctor has approved, and do not drink alcohol until your doctor says it is OK.
- Write things down if you have a hard time remembering.
To visit their website, please click the following link: http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/tbi/TBI.htm
Legal cases involving traumatic brain injury require an attorney who has a thorough understanding of all the aspects of TBI and is experienced in handling such cases. If you or a loved one has sustained a traumatic brain injury due to an accident or assault, call attorney Christopher Campana at 512-391-0076. Do not delay as you may have a valid claim and may be entitled to compensation for injuries, but a lawsuit must be filed before the applicable statute of limitations expires.