Most of us think we know how serious traumatic brain injuries (TBI) can be, but many people don’t seem to realize that they don’t always heal the same as other other injuries and the impact of a serious TBI can lead to a lifetime of pain and medical care.
Many traumatic brain injuries are preventable, meaning it is imperative that everyone in such a position protect themselves to the extent possible. The most common causes for TBI that we see include the following:
This is perhaps the most common cause of a TBI. Brain injuries usually occur because of the movement of the head during the crash and the head hitting the hard metal frame of the vehicle, but it can also happen when unsecured objects move around the cabin and hit the victim in the head.
Slip and Falls
This is a very common cause of traumatic brain injuries, and usually happen when the head hits a hard floor, or a sidewalk or, in some cases, very hard ice. They may also fall against a very hard object that causes a TBI or, if the fall is from height, they may hit a hard object on the way down.
There is a reason many workplaces, especially the construction industry, or the Texas oil and gas industry, require everyone present onsite to wear a hard hat or a helmet. A worker or observer could slip and fall or fall from height, or they can hit their head on overhead beams or other objects, or heavy objects like tools or other materials can fall on them and hit their heads.
The good news is, most TBIs are preventable. Wearing your seatbelt can reduce the likelihood of head trauma in an auto accident, for example, and wearing proper footwear can reduce the likelihood of a slip and fall injury. Likewise, workers who are provided with proper safety gear as required by regulations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are far less likely to suffer a traumatic brain injury than workers whose employers are not as compliant.
What is a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)?
In most cases, TBI is an acute event that seems similar to other injuries, except that the injury to the brain can affect them beyond that. Since our brain defines who we are in many ways, and since the brain controls the rest of our bodies, the consequences of a traumatic brain injury can affect virtually every aspect of our lives, including our personality. It’s not like a broken bone or even a punctured lung, which might leave you with a limp or perhaps affect your ability to breathe for a while. Most injuries in the body heal and regain something close to full function.
However, traumatic brain injuries do not heal the same as other injuries. Recovery from a TBI is a functional recovery, and no two such injuries are the same. Two people can have largely the same injury and the consequences can be more serious in one than in the other. In some cases, symptoms can appear immediately, while for others, the injury is not apparent for days or weeks. In some cases, the person with the TBI may not even realize they have been injured.
The Effects of a TBI
Too often, TBI is sometimes missed at first, in part because the medical team in the emergency department (ED) is focused on saving the life of the accident victim. Medical technology and knowledge have improved in recent years, so medical professionals are able to use respirators to control breathing and to relieve intracranial pressure, which is the pressure caused by the fluid surrounding the brain. That has reduced the death rate from traumatic brain injuries, but the overall physical effects of a TBI are significant.
TBI come in two varieties; mild and severe. A TBI can be considered mild if the loss of consciousness and/or confusion and disorientation lasts less than 30 minutes. Still, those with even a mild TBI can suffer cognitive problems such as constant headaches, confusion, memory problems, attention deficits, mood swings, and a lot of frustration. These types of TBI are too often overlooked, but the effect on the injured person and their family can be devastating.
A severe TBI is usually associated with loss of consciousness for more than 30 minutes and memory loss following the injury, or a penetrating skull injury that lasts longer than 24 hours. The deficits can range from impairment to high-level cognitive functions to a comatose state. Those who survive a severe TBI may see limited limb function, impaired speech function and/or emotional or mental problems. The range of symptoms of such injuries varies greatly among individuals, as does the degree and length of a possible recovery.
If You Have Hit Your Head, Have it Checked Out
The bottom line is, the effects of a TBI can be profound and have a significant effect on the life of the victim and their loved ones. Even with a mild TBI, the negative consequences to the victim’s life can be dramatic and life-altering. For many accident victims who have suffered a severe TBI, long-term rehabilitation is often necessary, as a way to maximize function and independence and the negative effects may, in fact, be permanent. Any significant change in brain function can have a dramatic impact on the victim and their family, including their ability to do their job, as well as social and community interactions.
A traumatic brain injury can be life-altering and it can have a major effect on every aspect of your life and the lives of all loved ones. It’s not something to ignore. If you have been in a serious car accident, see a doctor and make sure your brain is healthy and working well.