Did you know traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the leading cause of death and disability among children and young adults in the U.S.?
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 1.5 million Americans yearly suffer from TBI.
As a result of the injury, around 50,000 people die every year while 230,000 survive yet are hospitalized. In addition, an estimated 80,000 to 90,000 people sustain long-term disability.
The risk of TBI is higher in males. Its major causes include:
- motor vehicle-related crashes
- violence, including assault and suicidal behavior
- falls, which is the leading cause of TBI among the older population
Around 5.3 million Americans live to endure TBI-related impairments today. The long-term disabilities related to TBI are grave. Yet these disabilities are not apparent, unlike a broken leg.
TBI is an invisible epidemic in the U.S. The impairments are not physical. Instead, the disabilities are cognitive, sensory, motor, and emotional. Often, these impairments are permanent and profoundly affect family and social relationships.
Traumatic Brain Injury Act of 1996
Because of TBI’s profound impact on the population, the public health community had to respond. There have been calls to prevent these injuries from happening or at least mitigate their consequent disabilities.
To this end, the CDC has worked since 1989 on a surveillance system to gather data on the causes, incidence, and risk factors of TBI in the U.S. The objectives are developing, evaluating, and implementing programs that aim to prevent TBI.
These efforts are enabled by funding the Traumatic Brain Injury Act of 1996.
The mandates of the Traumatic Brain Injury Act also include researching effective strategies for preventing TBI and implementing education programs to raise public awareness.
What Causes TBI
The CDC defines TBI as a disruption of the brain’s normal function, which results from a blow, jolt, or bump to the head.
So when the brain slams hard into the skull, it causes injury.
The symptoms of TBI vary. It can range from headache to complete paralysis.
Here is a list of the common symptoms of TBI.
- loss of consciousness
- breathing problems
- vision changes
- dilated pupils
- dizziness and balance issues
- slow pulse
- increased blood pressure
- cognitive difficulties
- slurred speech
- body numbness
- facial weakness
- difficulty swallowing
- inappropriate emotional responses
In mild cases, there may be brain dysfunction for a limited period. Other symptoms like tissue damage, bleeding, and bruising may accompany it.
However, significant injuries can lead to permanent disability, comatose, or death.
2 Types of TBI
Two main types of head injuries can potentially lead to TBI.
Open Head Injuries
This head injury happens when an object punctures the skull and gets into the brain. Thus, it’s also known as penetrating head injuries.
Open head injuries may also include instances where the skull is fractured. Here, the brain matter is exposed. It could also have a piece of bone protruding.
In a motor vehicle accident, glass and debris could penetrate an exposed skull. This is why open-head injuries require immediate medical attention. In addition to swelling or bleeding of the brain, a severe infection could develop.
Closed Head Injuries
In this type of head injury, there is no visible penetration or bleeding of the skull. So it’s likely that the extent of the damage is not apparent at first instance.
Bruises or scratches on the head may accompany closed head injuries. In motor vehicle accidents, this results from hitting the head on the steering wheel or dashboard.
3 Sub-Categories of Closed Head Injuries
Closed head injuries also have three sub-categories.
A coup-contrecoup brain injury results from having bruises on the brain. This happens when the impact force causes the brain to move around inside the skull. As a result, the brain slams into the walls of the skull, bouncing from one side to the other.
Concussion, on the other hand, is a mild injury. This usually happens when a blunt force lands on the head, causing movement of the brain in the skull. Boxers are typically the ones who incur this type of brain injury. Its signs show after some time. But once the symptoms appear, they can last for days.
The last sub-category of close head injuries is diffuse axonal injury. This occurs when the brain shifts inside the skull very rapidly. As a result, it causes shearing to the connecting fibers called axons. In most cases, the symptoms of diffuse axonal injury include loss of consciousness and disability.
Other types of injuries to the brain are contusions, hemorrhaging, and hematoma. These injuries are not immediately apparent and may require observation to determine the damage’s extent.
Long-Term Complications of Brain Injuries
Medical experts say brain injuries can have long-term complications. Here are some of them.
- hearing or vision loss
- loss of the sense of smell or taste
- balance issues or vertigo
- frequent headaches
- memory loss
- concentration problems
- difficulty in learning or problem-solving
- slurred speech
- mood swings
- paralysis of facial muscles
To minimize these complications from happening, it is crucial to treat the injuries as soon as they occur.
How to Treat TBI
Treatment for TBI largely depends on its severity.
Rest and over-the-counter medication can treat mild or minor TBI. However, the full extent of the injury may take time to be apparent. Close monitoring of symptoms is necessary to observe if they linger or worsen.
If the injury ranges from moderate to severe, please seek emergency medical care. Its treatment options include anti-seizure medication, surgery, and therapy.
Dealing with Brain Injury
Getting a brain injury is a frightening and challenging ordeal. Here are some steps to mitigate the emotional turmoil of dealing with this condition.
1. Connect with support groups
It’s essential to get in touch with people who are similarly situated. They are invaluable resources for information. These groups can provide information on various topics, including care programs, treatment facilities, and support.
2. Take note of the physical and mental changes
Keep a list of the observable changes, medications, treatments, and results. It also helps to write down questions for the doctor or treatment team.
3. Gather family and friends for support
It helps to have more people to support the patient during this difficult time. Not only will there be more people to help with the tasks, but their presence can also be uplifting.
Impact of TBI
A severe brain injury can leave the person incapacitated to work. Thus, there is a loss of income.
This condition can also affect the person’s ability to relate usually with other people since his communication skills are impaired. Other cognitive functions are also affected. As a result, this person needs to relearn basic actions that most people typically do, like walking.
A less severe TBI can still have a massive impact on one’s life. The person will struggle with frequent headaches or forgetfulness. There may also be complications like seizures, mood swings, and concentration problems that he will have to deal with.
In some cases, the brain injury has little to no signs. As a result, it is often overlooked. Other subtle symptoms of TBI include loss of coordination, slow cognitive function, and emotional outbursts, which people tend not to notice.
To remove uncertainty, it is critical to get a thorough evaluation to ascertain the extent of the damage.
Recovering Damages for TBI
People suffering from TBI often endure lingering pain and emotional and financial challenges. These people may also require lifelong medical care, which can be very costly.
Looking at the related costs and the loss is crucial in determining a fair settlement amount for the damage.
Like any serious medical condition, a brain injury almost always involves significant financial consequences.
It isn’tisn’t just the cost of medical care that can financially cripple someone with TBI. Financial losses also include lost earning capacity due to the inability to go to work or look for gainful employment.
The more severe the injury, the higher the medical costs. And this may be ongoing for a long time.
Losses can go beyond money.
It could also include pain and suffering on account of brain injury. There is also emotional distress and loss of self-confidence. What’sWhat’s worse, there may be damaged relationships.
Seeking Compensation for TBI
In coming up with a settlement amount, there are different factors to consider.
It is possible to obtain millions of dollars in compensation for a severe brain injury. But that’s highly unlikely for a mild TBI.
Since the cost of medical care for severe brain injuries is astronomical and likely to continue for a long time, it is common to have multi-million dollar settlements. Its treatment involves extensive procedures and lengthy hospitalization. And there is considerable time going into physical or occupational therapy.
People suffering from severe brain injuries also need specialized medical equipment for mobility. These may include wheelchairs or orthopedic tools.
Seeking Legal Representation
If you or your loved ones have suffered a brain injury due to the fault or negligence of another, you may be entitled to compensation.
The damages will cover any financial loss and the emotional toll the injury brought upon you and your family.
It would help to speak with an expert in personal injury law to learn your options for obtaining proper compensation for your injuries.