A star Southern California high school football player was hospitalized for a head injury after colliding helmet-to-helmet with another player during a game. While there has been increased concern shown toward these types of injuries in recent years – especially those that occur to children – head injuries, concussions, and traumatic brain injuries continue to occur, seemingly unabated by attempts to limit their occurrences and reduce their severity. This is unfortunate, because head injuries can cause serious, permanent harm to young and old alike.
What are Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs)?
As its name implies, a traumatic brain injury is an injury that impacts the brain of the injury victim. Traumatic brain injuries can be classified as mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the severity of the injury itself. As one might expect, mild traumatic brain injuries generally do not result in serious or permanent consequences whereas the impact of a severe traumatic brain injury can be disabling and permanent. The most common ways in which a traumatic brain injury can be inflicted include:
- Blunt force, where the head of the victim is struck by another object. A helmet-to-helmet collision between football players, such as the incident that injured the high school player mentioned above, would be an example of a traumatic brain injury caused by blunt force.
- Piercing, where an object actually penetrates the skull and enters the cranial cavity.
- Whiplash, where the head snaps back and forth rapidly, causing the brain to slam against the front and back of the skull.
There is no correlation between a TBI mechanism and the resulting severity: A TBI caused by blunt force can be just as severe as a TBI caused by a piercing injury. Depending on the age of the TBI victim, a TBI injury can result in the victim – and his or her family – suffering hundreds of thousands of dollars (or more) in past and future medical expenses, lost wages, and other economic and noneconomic damages.
What are the Signs of Traumatic Brain Injury?
It can be difficult to determine whether someone (especially a child) suffered a “bump on the head” or a traumatic brain injury. In more severe cases of traumatic brain injury, the victim may actually lose consciousness for several minutes or longer and/or many be unable to remember how his or her injury occurred. Other symptoms of traumatic brain injury include:
- Confusion, fatigue, and/or sleepiness;
- Irritability or sudden mood swings;
- Loss of desire to eat or participate in activities that once brought joy or pleasure;
- Frequent or persistent headaches;
- Nausea and/or vomiting;
- Unusual behavior.
If you suspect a family member or a loved one has suffered a traumatic brain injury (especially a child), you should consider taking that person to the nearest emergency room for evaluation and treatment. The prognosis for a person who has suffered a traumatic brain injury improves greatly if the person is able to receive medical treatment in a timely manner.
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(image courtesy of Lisa Runnels)