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Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI): What it is and what causes it

by  on  Car Accidents & Motor Vehicle Collisions

Traumatic Brain Injury, or TBI, has been in the news a lot lately in the context of football and the the NFL.  While it is true that playing football–as well as other sports–can cause TBI due to repeated concussions (a mild form of TBI on its own), your Denver Accident Attorney knows that the leading cause of TBI-related deaths in the U.S. is motor vehicle accidents.Falls are the second biggest cause of TBI injuries in the country, constituting 55% of TBIs for 0-14 year olds and 81% for 65+ year olds.  TBIs have become such a huge problem in the U.S. that in 2010, 2.5 million emergency room visits, hospitalizations, or deaths were associated with TBI, either alone or in conjunction with other injuries.

    What exactly is a traumatic brain injury?  It is defined as a bump, blow or jolt to the head or penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain.  Most TBIs are mild; an example of a mild TBI is a concussion.  The symptoms of a mild TBI like a concussion are a headache or neck ache, nausea, ringing in the ears, dizziness, and tiredness.  A moderate or severe TBI can have those symptoms and some of the following: a headache that gets worse or does not go away; repeated vomiting or nausea; convulsions or seizures; an inability to awaken from sleep; slurred speech; weakness or numbness in arms and legs; dilated eye pupils.

    Your Denver Accident Attorney emphasizes that the effects of a TBI can be devastating.  A TBI can cause impaired thinking and memory loss, problems with movement and sensation (such as vision and hearing), and disturbing losses in emotional functioning (such as personality changes, depression, and suicidal ideation).  In fact, suicides of former NFL players have been linked to TBI.

    So why are motor vehicle accidents such a big cause of traumatic brain injuries?  The force with which the human body is propelled in a car accident–even at relatively low rates of speed–can cause incredible damage.  There are two types of TBIs: closed head, where the skull is not fractured, and open head, where the skull is penetrated.  In a closed head fracture due to perhaps a crash victim’s head hitting the dashboard, bruising and tearing of brain tissue results.  Bleeding and swelling of the brain can also occur; if these happen, surgery may be necessary.  In an open head fracture likely to be caused by glass from a shattered windshield piercing a crash victim’s skull, the glass must be surgically removed from the brain. 

    A surprising source of TBIs in motor vehicle accidents is airbag deployment or malfunction.  From 1990-2008, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration reported 284 deaths due to airbags.  Infants and children are especially susceptible to head injuries from airbag deployment or malfunction.  Seat belts and car seats are still great protection.

    If you or a loved one has suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury from a motor vehicle accident or a fall, contact Denver Accident Attorney Jordan Levine at  303-333-8000 for a free case evaluation.