In our modern world, driving is a necessity rather than a luxury. With all of the distractions present on the road, drivers need to stay focused to avoid accidents. While most will ago their best to divert automobile accidents, it’s not possible to control the actions of other drivers. With over 12 million drivers in Florida, according to Statemaster, accidents are often unavoidable.
There are numerous types of personal injury that can occur in an accident. One of the most severe types of injury is brain injury. In fact, according to Center of Disease Control, about 20% of all traumatic brain injuries stem from automobile accidents. Brain injuries can be detrimental to someone’s well being, leading to debilitating permanent issues and even death. Depending on the severity of the injury, victims can face a lot of hardships and financial issues.
Even the smallest car accidents can have substantial effects on the brain. Mild brain injury can occur at slow speeds, often without the knowledge of the victim. The term mild brain injury is somewhat misleading. It refers to the severity of the initial physical trauma that occurs rather than the ramifications that occur afterwards. By definition, mild brain injury is an incident of injury to the brain that results from blunt trauma or the forces of acceleration and deceleration.
Injuries usually occur due to the rapid acceleration and deceleration of a victim’s body during an accident. Speeds do not have to be high to result in injury. In fact, injuries have been reported from accidents at speeds of only 8 miles per hour. However, the faster the car was going upon impact will likely increase the severity of the injury. As the accident occurs, a victim’s head will often move forward and back in rapid succession. What results is trauma within the skull.
The brain isn’t a fixed biological structure. It essentially floats in cerebral fluid and is composed of millions of soft fibers. It is delicate in nature and is extremely susceptible to injury when it shifts. Like any other object in the physical world, it follows Newton’s first law of motion: an object at rest stays at rest until manipulated by an external force. The brain stays safe and static in the skull until the forces of acceleration and deceleration affect it.
When a person experiences rapid acceleration and deceleration, the skull moves forward quickly. The brain, however, stays at rest. The mechanical force isn’t transferred to the brain until it hits the back of the skull, setting the brain tissue in motion mere microseconds after the skull has begun moving. This is when the injury occurs. As the head moves forward and back, the brain comes in contact with the rough interior of the skull that is meant to protect it.
The brain can be severely damaged when it comes in contact with the skull. The interior of the skull is often rough and uneven. The coarse bone can easily damage the brain tissue, straining the nerves and causing a plethora of complications. In more severe accidents, the brain can even rotate inside the skull.
Even if the force of an impact isn’t enough to cause the brain to hit the interior of the skull, injury can occur. Because the brain is soft with an elastic consistency, it is prone to squeezing and stretching. While it is resilient in nature, it is pliable enough to cause damage. Neural cells can tear when this occurs, affecting the brain’s ability to process information.
Victims will not always realize they are received a mild brain injury. The severity of the injury can vary tremendously. Many times, the repercussions can fluctuate; being more prominent on some days compared to others. However, victims will usually experience some of the following effects:
These issues are more evident immediately following an accident and can persist long after. They can even lead to more long lasting implications such as depression and excessive headaches. While they do not seem severe at first, the persistence of these effects can have an effect on daily life.
It can be quite difficult to diagnose mild brain injury. Initial screenings often don’t detect the problem. Modern neuroimaging devices, like CT Scans and MRIs, cannot detect the injury. Mild brain injury damages the white matter of the brain, which is not distinguishable on these devices. To truly diagnose, victims often need to take neuropsychological assessments. These tests will evaluate any disfunction in the brain.
Diffuse Axonal Injury is one of the most common types of brain injury. It occurs by the same means as mild brain injury. The difference is that the effects are much more severe. Instead of a localized area in which the damage occurs, diffuse axonal injury affects an extensive widespread area of the brain.
These injuries occur from the traumatic forces of rapid acceleration and deceleration. Unlike mild brain injuries, the axons are disrupted. An axon is also known as a nerve fiber. It is a slender projection of neurons that transmits electrical pulses. They play a pivotal role in the communication of neurons.
When forces of acceleration or deceleration occur, the axons stretch and tear. More severe injuries occur when the axons that traverse junctions of the brain stretch and tear. The junctions between areas of different densities and functions need the axons to communicate. When the axons tear, communication is affected, resulting in significant loss of brain function.
The results of this type of injury can be quite grim. Majority of the time, victims lose consciousness. The brain is incapable of functioning properly, resulting in the victim falling into a coma. Unfortunately, majority of people who fall into a coma due to diffuse axonal injuries do not regain consciousness and remain in a vegetative state. The small percentage of those who do regain consciousness are left with severe impairments, such as paralysis
Treating this type of injury requires immediate action. Because of the high risk of comatose, victims must be closely monitored at all times. Swelling that occurs from injury must be reduced quickly. It’s often done by steroids and other medications. Should the victim regain consciousness, they will have to undergo months of rehabilitation to regain as much function as possible. This includes speech and physical therapy.
This injury is a fracture to the vertebrae. It gets its dramatic name because it is the type of injury sustained by hanging victims. The injury often occurs from physical trauma located to the anterior of the body. The severity can vary greatly. In some cases, victims may not know they sustained injury; only showing a small symptom of headaches. However, in more severe cases, the injury can result in paralysis.
These fractures occur when an object impacts the chin or neck area. It’s common in front-end collisions. When a collision occurs, the car rapidly decelerates. During this time, the body is still moving forward until another force acts upon the body, such as a seat belt of steering wheel. As the body acts upon this sudden force, the neck is hyperextended, causing the fracture. In many cases, it’s actually the steering wheel that causes the injury, as it is immediately in front of victims.
The fracture occurs in the pedicles of the axis vertebra. This vertebra is the pivot point between the first vertebrae, which carries the head, and the rest of the spine. This vertebra provides rotation of the head. The injury can translate to other parts of the body, such as the brain and spinal cord. Victims will experience intense headaches and reduced brain function.
Diagnosing this injury is fairly easy. Those who have a mild injury may not realize it at first, only becoming aware of it after an X-Ray. After official diagnosis, there are a number of different ways to treat it.
One of the most common ways to treat the injury is with surgery. During surgery, the fracture will be fused. Because this type of injury is unstable, the recovery process can be a bit arduous. Victims will have to be carefully monitored for brain abscesses, infection, spinal alignment, and much more. They’ll need to be in bracing to ensure that full functionality is returned.
Severe traumatic brain injury can have life altering implications. Not only does traumatic injury increase the chances of death, but survivors are often left permanently disabled. These injuries are far too common. According to the Center of Disease Control, approximately 2.5 million people sustained traumatic brain injuries in 2010. This resulted in over 76 billion dollars in medical costs. Many of those injuries are severe in nature.
Brain injury can vary in severity, but even the mildest type of injury can lead to significant permanent damage. More severe cases can result in permanent changes to cognitive function and personality.
Brain injury is classified in numerous different ways. In terms of severity, the damage can be mild, moderate, or severe. Mild injuries, as covered above, can affect mental status and cause unconsciousness. Moderate injuries can affect a victim’s physical, cognitive, and behavioral patterns. These effects can last for months or even be permanent. Severe injuries can have short and long term effects. In addition to permanent disability, victims will likely suffer memory loss, personality changes, and a number of diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
Severe brain injuries are often classified by the cause of the injury. Closed injuries are when damage occurs due to movement of the brain, such as diffuse axonal injuries. In these cases, the brain experiences severe bruising and swelling, often requiring the use of surgery to alleviate. While the brain remains untouched by outside forces, death or permanent disability is still prevalent.
Penetrating injuries occur when an outside object pierces the skull and affects the brain. These are often the most severe type of brain injury, frequently resulting in immediate brain death. Victims will need valiant efforts from surgeons to repair damage. While many victims go into a vegetative state after a penetrating injury, others can make amazing recoveries.
Non-fatal severe brain injuries will almost always result in memory loss and extended periods of unconsciousness. Afterwards, many victims are left with permanent disability. In fact, according to the Center of Disease Control, 43% of victims are left disabled for at least a year after the accident. They’ll also experience long-term effects on their cognitive functions, motor functions, senses, and emotions.
Brain injury is a serious issue that needs to be addressed immediately. While many tend to downplay their injuries, they could be suffering for many years to come without proper treatment. Driving is one of the biggest causes for traumatic brain injury. While drivers cannot control the actions of others on the road, they can certainly do their part to drive safely and avoid collisions. Should an accident occur, victims should get immediate care and contact the help of a lawyer. They’ll work to get the compensation victims deserve so that they can focus on their recovery.