Often called a concussion, a traumatic brain injury (TBI) can have a long-term impact on a person’s life. How big is the problem? According to the CDC, there are an estimated 2.87 million TBI-related hospitalizations and deaths every year. Over 837,000 of these injuries occur among children.
A TBI is a closed head injury and results in damage to the brain. Sudden bumps, jolts, and blows to the head can cause the brain to move back and forth. Symptoms do not always manifest immediately after a traumatic event. If you have been in an accident, you should be aware of and look out for the signs of a TBI.
The Causes of Traumatic Brain Injuries
A bump or blow to the head can lead to a disruption in normal brain function. Not all blows or jolts result in TBIs, however. Still, many accidents can damage the brain.
A few leading causes of TBIs are:
- Falls. Falls account for at least 48 percent of TBI-related emergency visits. Children and adults over 65 are at a higher risk of developing a TBI than adults under age 65. Falling off a bed, ladder, in the bath, or down the stairs may warrant a trip to the doctor’s office to check for signs of a brain injury.
- Car accidents. Vehicle collisions account for an estimated 20 percent of TBI-related hospitalizations. Crashes that result in brain injuries involve trucks, cars, motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrians. Even a low-speed collision can result in a TBI.
- Sports injuries. Soccer, football, boxing, hockey, baseball, and playing any other type of sport can lead to a TBI. Getting struck by or pushed into an object accounts for roughly 17 percent of TBI-related emergency room visits. These types of injuries are most common among young people.
The Symptoms of a Traumatic Brain Injury
For some people, the signs of a TBI appear immediately after the traumatic event. In other cases, symptoms can take days or weeks to manifest. A TBI may cause a wide range of symptoms. Some common physical signs include headaches, blurry vision, dizziness, and vomiting.
A person may experience cognitive symptoms like trouble concentrating, memory problems, feeling confused, and loss of consciousness. Some people report having difficulty sleeping or sleeping more than usual, and some experience mood changes.
In certain severe cases, signs of a TBI can include:
- Loss of coordination;
- Slurred speech;
- Persistent headaches; and
- Weakness in the fingers and toes.
Very young children who have a TBI can’t always communicate about their symptoms. They may instead display changes in eating and sleeping habits, unusual irritability, drowsiness, and persistent crying.
In a diagnosis, the term “mild” does not refer to the outcome. Doctors only describe a TBI as mild when observing the initial presentation of symptoms.
How Long Does a Traumatic Brain Injury Last?
The duration of TBI symptoms varies from person to person. Some people see improvement within a few days or weeks, while others see their symptoms persist for years.
Data from the CDC show that 22 percent of moderate to severe TBI victims still suffer from symptoms five years after their accident. Around 30 percent of moderate to severe TBI victims experience worsening symptoms.
What Are the Long-Term Effects?
A diagnosis cannot accurately predict how badly a TBI will affect each individual. In some cases, a TBI can have a long-term impact on a person’s life, including a shorter life expectancy due to increased risk of infection and pneumonia, among other health effects.
One study observed the link between exposure to repeated TBIs and lifelong cognitive consequences. Results showed that repeat TBI victims often experience learning and working memory impairment along with a lack of spatial memory.
TBIs can add a burden to the daily lives of victims and their families. An estimated 33 percent of severe or repeat TBI victims must rely on others for everyday activities.
Recovering from a Traumatic Brain Injury
Many people recover fully after a TBI. However, how quickly and fully a person heals depends on multiple factors. These factors include the person’s age, the severity of the injury, how healthy they were before the accident, and how well they take care of their injury.
If you have a TBI, the first step toward healing is to speak with a doctor about how to care for yourself while you heal. They will tailor a treatment plan best suited for you.
Some general tips include:
- Get plenty of rest. Be sure to get enough sleep at night. Rest often during the day.
- Avoid certain activities. Those with a TBI should avoid physically demanding activities. Working out, heavy house cleaning, and even balancing your checkbook can slow recovery. Contact sports can increase the risk of another head injury.
- Slowly return to daily activities. When symptoms improve, consult your doctor to determine if you can go back to work and continue other regular activities. Gradually return to your daily activities, being sure to step back from activities that make any symptoms worsen or reappear.
- Talk with your employer. When you return to work, speak with your boss about modifying your tasks if necessary.
- Medication. Only use medication your doctor has approved.
If you were in an accident and received a TBI due to someone else’s negligence, you may be eligible to seek compensation from the at-fault party through a traumatic brain injury claim. In a successful claim, you must prove that the other party was negligent, and therefore legally responsible for the accident.
To establish negligence, you will need to show that the other party owed you a duty of care, that they breached that duty of care, and that the breach resulted in an accident that caused your injuries. For example, in car accidents, another driver’s duty of care is to follow traffic laws. Finally, you must show proof of the damages you have suffered because of the accident.
If you are successful in your claim, you may receive reimbursement for past, current, and future medical bills. Other types of damages you may recover include lost wages, loss of quality of life, and pain and suffering. Each state has a different deadline to file a claim called the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations in most places is two or three years. You must file your claim before this deadline or you may lose your chance to recover compensation from the at-fault party for your injury.
If you have any questions about filing a TBI claim, consult a traumatic brain injury lawyer near you.