One of the most common types of brain injuries experienced is a concussion, and one of the most common causes of concussions are motor vehicle accidents. The sudden force of the impact can cause the brain to move and hit the inside of the skull, which is covered in bony ridges. This impact can cause bruising or bleeding in the brain.
Concussions resulting from a motor vehicle accident (MVA) tend not to be taken seriously. Many times, people don’t even know they have suffered a brain injury, and often the injured party will try to walk off the head injury like they would with a scrape or a bruise. Effects caused by the concussion can take weeks or months to appear, and the victim may not even know that the concussion caused these symptoms. But, an untreated concussion can have severe and permanent effects on brain functions, which can result in expensive therapy and rehabilitation.
Diagnosing a concussion can be tricky. Although any degree of head trauma can cause a concussion, the most common concussions – those that result from mild head injuries – do not involve identifiable bleeding or bruising in the brain. This means that using brain imaging techniques such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT), which are done to diagnose a severe traumatic brain injury, isn’t a viable way to diagnose a concussion, as they do not detect the cellular damage thought to cause concussion symptoms. Because of this, doctors must rely on a careful assessment of symptoms and neuropsychological functions in order to make an accurate diagnosis.
There are three different grades of concussions that can be experienced by an accident victim:
- Grade I Concussion – This occurs if there is no loss of consciousness. Furthermore, amnesia is absent or is present but is present for less than 30 minutes.
- Grade II Concussion – This occurs if there is a loss of consciousness for less than 5 minutes or there is amnesia lasting anywhere between 30 minutes to 24 hours.
- Grade III Concussion – This occurs if there is a loss of consciousness for more than 5 minutes or there is amnesia that lasts for more than 24 hours.
The signs of a concussion can be subtle. Early on, problems may be missed by patients, family members, and doctors. People may look fine even though they’re acting or feeling differently. It is always important to see a medical professional after a serious accident, even if you feel okay because some injuries can take time to show up.
Below are 8 signs that you may be experiencing symptoms of a concussion:
- If you suffer from symptoms like dizziness, sensitivity to light, or nausea and vomiting after the accident, a concussion could be to blame.
- If your ears are ringing, that could indicate that you suffered a blow to the head, even if you don’t remember it.
- If you are confused about things like the date, time of day, or other common things that you are usually aware of, you could be suffering the symptoms of concussion. Confusion or memory loss may also show up days or weeks after the accident.
- If you are having sleep problems, particularly if you were sleeping well before the accident, this could be indicative of a concussion. Insomnia is a possible symptom, but so is sleeping much more than usual.
- If you suffered a blow to the head, headaches would be a logical symptom.
- Mood changes, including irritability, aggressiveness, nervousness, or even depression, if you weren’t experiencing these before, could be signs of a potential concussion.
- If you’re having difficulties focusing on the task at hand, it could mean that you’re suffering from a concussion.
- In more extreme cases, seizures may occur.
The symptoms of a concussion can vary greatly. Because there is no simple test for diagnosing a concussion, typically several steps are typically involved. Doctors will evaluate your signs and symptoms, review your medical history, and conduct various examinations testing neurological and cognitive function.
Neurological evaluations include checking a patient’s vision, hearing, strength and sensation, balance, coordination, and reflexes.
Cognitive testing may be done by your doctor to evaluate several cognitive factors including your memory, concentration, and ability to recall information.
Brain imaging tests such as CT scans and MRI scans may be recommended for some people with symptoms such as severe headaches, seizures, repeated vomiting, or symptoms that are becoming worse. Brain imaging will help determine whether the injury is severe and has resulted in brain bruising, swelling, or bleeding.
Do All Concussions Heal?
No. Not all concussions heal. For 10% to 20% of concussion victims, symptoms are still present one year after the injury. This is known as Chronic Post-Concussive Syndrome, and can lead to real long term health consequences.
Tips for Healing
- Get plenty of sleep at night, and rest during the day.
- Avoid activities that are physically demanding (e.g., heavy housecleaning, weightlifting/working-out) or require a lot of concentration (e.g., balancing your check-book). They can make your symptoms worse and slow your recovery.
- Avoid activities, such as contact or recreational sports, that could lead to a second concussion. (it is best to avoid roller coasters or other high-speed rides that can make your symptoms worse or even cause a concussion.)
- When your doctor says you are well enough, return to your normal activities gradually, not all at once.
- Because your ability to react may be slower after a concussion, ask your doctor when you can safely drive a car, ride a bike, or operate heavy equipment.
- Talk with your doctor about when you can return to work. Ask about how you can help your employer understand what has happened to you.
- Consider talking with your employer about returning to work gradually and about changing your work activities or schedule until you recover (e.g., work half-days).
- Take only those drugs that your doctor has approved.
- Do not drink alcoholic beverages until your doctor says you are well enough. Alcohol and other drugs may slow down your recovery and put you at risk of further injury.
- If you’re easily distracted, try to do one thing at a time. For example, don’t try to watch TV while fixing dinner.
- Do not neglect your basic needs, such as eating well and getting enough rest.
- Avoid sustained computer use, including computer/video games early in the recovery process.
Steps to Take
It is always a good idea to get a medical check-up after being involved in an accident, but that’s especially true if you think you may have suffered a brain injury. If left untreated, a brain injury can continue damaging the brain after the accident – this process is known as the Cascade Effect.
Even if the concussion isn’t diagnosed on the first medical visit, if you continue to experience any of the other symptoms above, do not hesitate to see your doctor again.
Although most people recover completely from concussion injuries, a significant number do not, and as a result suffer chronic problems of continuing headaches, seizures, an inability to concentrate, personality changes that can lead to violence or suicide, as well as loss of employment.
Your damages can be substantial in these types of cases where medical treatment may be ongoing for years. If you think you may have suffered a brain injury in a car accident, consider getting a free consultation with our personal injury lawyers at Mirian Law Firm. We will be able to help you evaluate the injury’s impact on your life and whether you are entitled to an insurance claim. Contact us today or book a free assessment of your personal injury case.