By Logan Quirk
Car accidents can give you headaches. When looking at the damage done to your vehicle, you may stress out about how long you’ll be without it. Of greater concern, though, are the potential brain injuries caused by the impact.
Insurance providers can handle your car-related problems relatively quickly, but the brain damage you sustain from the accident may have a lasting effect on your life. Know what to watch for when it comes to symptoms so that you can manage any potential injury better.
To get a better handle on how auto accidents can affect our minds, you should learn more about traumatic brain injuries.
What Is a Traumatic Brain Injury?
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, a TBI or traumatic brain injury is the result of a “sudden, external, physical assault” that impacts that part of the body.
The American Association of Neurological Surgeons notes that motor vehicle crashes are among the leading causes of TBI-related deaths. On top of that, vehicular accidents cause 17 percent of non-fatal traumatic brain injuries.
Penetrating and Closed Brain Injuries
A TBI can either be a penetrating brain injury or a closed brain injury. Let’s learn more about how those two differ from one another.
Penetrating Brain Injuries
Penetrating brain injuries are often fatal. With this type of injury, the brain becomes fully exposed to damage because the external force has gone past the skull.
Among the more common types of penetrating brain injuries are gunshot wounds. You may also sustain this type of injury if a powerful explosion happens, and some shrapnel reaches your head. A person may also sustain a penetrating brain injury due to freak accidents while playing sports or falling on certain objects.
Closed Brain Injuries
The brain can be severely injured even if no foreign object makes direct contact with it. Those are what we call closed brain injuries.
If you fall and hit your head, you’re at risk for developing a closed brain injury. Participating in sports can also lead to these injuries, with combat athletes among the most susceptible. A recent car accident could also cause a closed brain injury.
Closed brain injuries can be harder to detect because their symptoms may not manifest right away. It may take hours or even a few days before you start to realize that there is something wrong.
Primary and Secondary Brain Injuries
You can classify brain injuries as either primary or secondary injuries.
If what you’re dealing with is a primary brain injury, then that means its full impact is evident right away.
In some ways, secondary brain injuries can be tougher to manage because they don’t manifest immediately. You may think you’re fine following the accident only to feel off later.
Different Kinds of Brain Injuries According to Severity
Traumatic brain injuries vary in terms of how they affect the body. Find out more about how severe they can be in this section.
Mild Brain Injuries
Some of these injuries can be mild. In a mild TBI case, the person affected mostly remains conscious although he/she may slip into unconsciousness for a brief period of time, according to the Mayfield Clinic. Mild occurrences of TBI can also lead to a person becoming confused, disoriented, and suffer from memory loss.
Moderate Brain Injuries
Moderate brain injuries are significantly more dangerous, and they will always require hospitalization. You could lose consciousness for hours if you’ve suffered a moderate brain injury. The person may also feel sleepy due to their brain swelling and/or bleeding.
Severe Brain Injuries
A person with a severe brain injury is likely in a life or death situation. You are unconscious due to the injury you sustained, and you may stay that way for over six hours.
The Common Brain Injuries You May Experience
Thus far, we’ve talked broadly about traumatic brain injuries in this article. From here on, we’ll focus more on specific injuries you may sustain from a car accident, their symptoms, and how you should go about managing them.
Concussions are among the most common brain injuries that may emerge because of an auto accident. They are often caused by a forceful blow directly to the head, such as your head smacking hard against the steering wheel of your car.
The reason you don’t suffer concussions easily is because of how your brain is protected. The Mayo Clinic notes that the cerebrospinal fluid present inside your skull acts as a kind of shock absorber. The cerebrospinal fluid effectively minimizes or even neutralizes the minor bumps and blows to your head that occur regularly.
If the force is powerful enough, the cerebrospinal fluid may not be enough to mitigate it, thus leading to a concussion.
Symptoms of a Concussion
The symptoms you’ll experience will depend on how severe your injury is.
Minor concussions may cause you to experience headaches, hear ringing in your ears, and your vision may also be affected. Confusion, dizziness, and forgetfulness are more symptoms of a concussion.
If your concussion is bad, you may start to feel nauseous, lose consciousness, and or notice weakness in your extremities. Additional symptoms of a major concussion include slurred speech, changes in behavior, and seizures.
How to Manage a Concussion
Generally speaking, you should go to a doctor following any car accident. Even if you feel fine, and don’t register any mild concussive symptoms, it’s still a good idea to get checked by a doctor.
If you are exhibiting symptoms of a concussion and a major concussion at that, you should head to the hospital as soon as possible. Your condition may start to deteriorate rapidly if you don’t act with urgency.
You can deal with the minor symptoms for a couple of days, but you should also schedule a visit to the doctor if those persist for a longer period of time.
Where concussions typically occur when your head is hit directly by an object, whiplash can take place even if your head does not make contact with anything.
The main cause of whiplash is when your head moves back and forth rapidly with great force. The amount of force that reaches your body can cause your brain to get jostled around inside your skull, and that is bad news.
The effect that whiplash has on your brain is often not as severe as what a concussion may cause, but it can still be difficult to deal with. In addition to the impact on your brain, whiplash may also cause pain in your upper body, particularly affecting your neck, arms, and shoulders.
Symptoms of Whiplash
Some of the symptoms of whiplash can look close to the symptoms of a concussion. You may also hear a ringing sound consistently, and your vision may start to get blurry. Depression, irritability, and issues related to concentrating and remembering also accompany a whiplash injury.
The effects of whiplash may become more pronounced if you’ve experienced this kind of injury before, per the Mayo Clinic.
How to Manage Whiplash
The symptoms of whiplash usually fade a few days after you initially sustained the injury. If they persist, pay a visit to the doctor to find out what’s wrong with your body.
Another unpleasant side effect of being involved in a car accident is intracranial hemorrhaging, which is also known as a brain bleed. Once again, the danger stems from a hard object making contact with your head.
Brain bleeds occur because the blood vessels tasked with delivering oxygen and nutrients to that essential organ are adversely affected by a powerful external force. The force may be strong enough to cause the blood vessels to leak or burst completely.
Brain bleeds are bad news for a couple of reasons.
First, the presence of excess blood near your brain can lead to the pressure level increasing. When too much pressure is on the brain, it could deprive it of oxygen, notes the Cleveland Clinic.
The other reason intracranial hemorrhaging is problematic is that it means the blood vessels are no longer fulfilling their roles. If that continues for an extended period of time, you may sustain some form of permanent brain damage.
Symptoms of Intracranial Hemorrhaging
Unsurprisingly, many of the symptoms you may experience because of intracranial hemorrhaging mirror the ones that accompany concussions and whiplash injuries. Yet again, you may start to feel confused, dizzy, and nauseous. The weakening of your extremities, sensitivity to light, and difficulty concentrating are additional symptoms for you to monitor.
Unusual symptoms that present themselves along with a brain bleed are difficulty breathing and an abnormal heart rate. Those symptoms emerge if you are experiencing bleeding along your brainstem.
How to Manage Intracranial Hemorrhaging
Brain bleeds are fatal, and for that reason alone, you should go to the doctor right away if you suspect you are suffering from it.
Even if you end up surviving a brain bleed, you may still be left worse for wear due to the lasting damage it causes. Remember that your brain cells are incapable of regenerating. Once some of your brain cells die, you may lose important functions.
Head for the emergency room right away if you suspect that you are currently experiencing intracranial hemorrhaging.
Diffuse Axonal Injuries
Lastly, we have diffuse axonal injuries. Professionals refer to these as DAIs.
The thing about DAIs is that they occur not necessarily because the brain itself was damaged. Instead, diffuse axonal injuries take place because the axons connecting the nerves are badly damaged.
When your brain moves around quickly inside your skull as it would during the point of impact of a car accident, it may shear the axons inside your brain as a result. The axons are essential for transmitting signals throughout your brain. If they are heavily damaged, you could experience a variety of problems.
Symptoms of a Diffuse Axonal Injury
Healthline notes that the main symptom of a diffuse axonal injury is the loss of consciousness. In severe DAI cases, a person may fall into a comatose state. A relatively minor case of DAI won’t lead to a person falling into a coma, but it may still render that individual unconscious for several hours.
Headaches, bouts of confusion, and fatigue are also symptomatic of a diffuse axonal injury. Unfortunately, bad diffuse axonal injuries may cause permanent disabilities.
How to Manage a Diffuse Axonal Injury
DAIs demand an immediate visit to the emergency room. People who experience a severe case of DAI are not guaranteed to wake up from their comatose state, which is why treating the problem right away is a must.
You may also have to undergo rehabilitation if you experience a diffuse axonal injury.
Tips for Avoiding Brain Injuries while Driving
Preventing accidents should always be your aim when you get behind the wheel of your car.
To accomplish that, make sure that you never drive when you’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It’s also a good idea to avoid driving whenever you’re feeling stressed out because you may be unable to focus on the road.
Other defensive driving tips you can follow to avoid accidents include performing routine maintenance of your car, checking the weather before you drive, and being mindful of the other vehicles on the road.
As always, you should also remember to buckle your seat belt before you drive because that can turn out to be a life-saving move.
We cannot overstate the dangers of car accidents. It’s not only your wallet that may suffer from the aftermath of a crash. Your brain is susceptible to injuries, as well.
If you ever find yourself in the unfortunate position of being involved in a car accident, make sure that the people responsible for what happened are held accountable. Consult with us at the Quirk Law Group today, so that we can pursue legal action against the offending party.