A traumatic brain injury (TBI) can occur anytime there is a bump or blow to the head. TBI is known as the silent epidemic, and is one of the least understood causes of death and disability in the United States.
In the Palmetto State alone, 61,000 people suffer with the long-term, disabling effects of brain injury, and TBI is the number one cause of accidental injury death for South Carolinians between the ages of 1 and 44.
With symptoms that can go undetected by the patient, brain injuries are frequently misdiagnosed by physicians and medical providers. If you have suffered injuries due to an accident caused by someone’s negligent or reckless conduct, you may be at risk for TBI. Being aware of the causes and symptoms of TBI can ensure you get the care you need in dealing with the long-term and potentially life-threatening ramifications of this dangerous and increasingly common type of injury
Causes of Traumatic Brain Injury
The brain is one of the most vital and complex organs in the human body. Knowing the basics of how the human brain works may help you understand how even the most seemingly minor injury can result in serious long-term ramifications. According to scientists at the National Institutes of Health, the brain is divided into three distinct sections, with each part controlling a different aspect of human behavior, movement, and cognitive awareness. These parts work separately as well as together to control and regulate everything from our heart rate and respiration to our moods and personalities. When even the tiniest part of the brain is slightly damaged or injured, it can dramatically affect any number of these processes.
Traumatic brain injuries occur as the result of a bump, blow or jolt to the head, or any type of severe whipping of the head that does damage to the brain and disrupts important brain processes. Common causes of traumatic brain injuries include:
In addition to the above, sports accidents resulting in brain injuries have become increasingly common among adults and children alike. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 200,000 children a year are injured due to sports or recreational activities. As a result, schools, sport leagues, and recreational organizations have revised their policies and developed action plans to better educate both parents and coaching staff on the dangers of brain injuries. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley has signed the Student Athlete Concussion Bill, which requires school districts in our state to provide fact sheets to staff and parents, and requires a medical examination and release by a physician for student athletes who suffer a head injury before they can return to play.
Signs and Symptoms of Brain Injury
The Brain Injury Association of America (BIA) is the nation’s largest and oldest nonprofit brain injury organization, with groups in states throughout the country. The South Carolina BIA chapter operates out of Columbia, and works diligently to provide information and support to brain injury sufferers and their families. Brain injuries can be unpredictable, with symptoms that vary and are often hard to detect. While symptoms in mild cases often go undiagnosed, any type of brain injury can result in serious, long-term problems.
Common symptoms of mild brain injuries include:
|Headaches and confusion||Lethargy and sleeping a lot|
|Nausea and vomiting||Intolerance of loud noises|
|Ringing in the ears||Vision difficulties; and|
|Dizziness and problems with balance||Mood swings and increased irritability|
|Lack of attention or inability to concentrate|
These symptoms may occur immediately after the injury, or develop slowly over time. Either way, it is important to seek medical care. In more severe cases, symptoms are often immediately obvious, and have the potential to be life threatening and even fatal.
Symptoms of severe brain injuries include:
|Loss of consciousness||Difficulty speaking or swallowing|
|Dilated pupils||Poor physical coordination or paralysis|
|Vomiting and loss of bladder or bowel control||Slow pulse and increase in blood pressure|
|Blurred or double vision||Spinal fluid leaking from ears or nose|
If you suspect a traumatic brain injury, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital emergency room immediately.
Living With a Traumatic Brain Injury
A brain injury can affect every aspect of a person’s life, including the way they think, feel, act, and behave. People with a TBI commonly face problems with planning their day, dealing with overstimulation, recalling important events or information, and generally making sense of the world in which they live. Cognitive and behavioral issues often emerge that present problems in dealing with job or school responsibilities, as well as everyday chores, such as buying groceries or paying bills. People with TBI often need additional assistance from family members or friends during the long process of recovery. The Brain Injury Association offers the following tips for family members of people with traumatic brain injury:
- Be aware of what your loved one’s deficits are. Know their limitations, and the impairments they struggle with most frequently.
- Help them plan their home accordingly. If their memory is impaired, having notes around the house to remind them to turn off appliances, or labels to remind them of where things are kept can help them maintain a feeling of independence.
- Plan activities that give them a reason to get up in the morning. Establish a schedule to keep them from getting bored or depressed.
- Strive to help them have as much structure as possible in their lives to help avoid confusion or anxiety.
- Let their doctor know if any behavioral changes occur.
Above all, be patient with a loved one who has suffered a brain injury, and encourage them to be patient with themselves. It can take many months to recover from TBI, and often these injuries are severe enough to cause permanent impairment. People with brain injuries often appear perfectly normal, yet exhibit inappropriate responses or behaviors when in public. In order to prevent problems with security, law enforcement, or medical providers, the Brain Injury Association of South Carolina recommends people with TBI print a wallet-sized brain injury survivor card that outlines their injury and is signed by their physician. This can help ensure a person with a TBI gets the care and protection they need.
If you or a loved one has suffered a traumatic brain injury, contact our experienced South Carolina personal injury attorneys today.