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Traumatic Brain Injury
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3 Common Causes of Head Injuries

September 17, 2015

Head injuries can arise from a variety of traumatic situations. Generally speaking, any type of injury to your brain, skull, or scalp caused by trauma qualifies as a “head injury.” The symptoms of a head injury may be mild to severe, often depending on the cause of the injury. Sometimes the results of the injury are visible—for example, as bumps or bruising—and sometimes symptoms manifest themselves internally, such as bleeding within the skull. Some common types of head injuries include the following:

  • Closed head injury: this is an injury that does not break or fracture the skull or penetrate brain tissue. Closed head injuries can often cause bruising, swelling, or internal bleeding of the brain.
  • Open or penetrating head injury: any type of damage that penetrates the skull would be classified as an open or penetrating head injury. This can cause skull fractures and possible bleeding in the brain.
  • Scalp wounds: these include injuries that cause lacerations to the scalp—the skin that protects your skull. Many times, the bleeding may seem profuse because blood vessels are very close to the skin’s surface on the face and scalp.

If you or someone you know has suffered any kind of head injury, consult a physician immediately to determine your best course of treatment.

 

What about TBI?

When most people think of head injuries, they think of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). A TBI occurs when the brain collides with the skull after a blow to the head, and the severity of the injury can be labeled as “mild,” “moderate,” or “severe” depending on the length of time the injured individual loses consciousness and certain other factors. 

TBIs can pose substantial health problems, including death. In fact, more than 50,000 deaths per year are associated with TBI. Furthermore, TBI accounts for 30% of all injury-related deaths in the United States. Just here in Alaska, the home of our offices, over 600 people are hospitalized for TBI each year.

There are many causes of TBIs and other head injuries. Below, we’ve outlined the most common of these, as well as different ways to help prevent these debilitating injuries.

 

Falls 

Falls are the leading cause of TBI, with these incidents accounting for over 40% of all TBIs. Due to issues with their motor skills, children and the elderly are the most susceptible to these fall-related TBIs. Approximately 55% of all TBIs among children below the age of 14 and 81% of all TBIs among the elderly come as the result of falls. 

There are several common sense steps that you can take to help prevent falls. If the weather is icy, avoid going outside or make sure you have proper gear, like ice cleats. Be sure rugs in your home have skid-proofing or are tacked to the ground. Add more light sources to your rooms, and consider keeping a flashlight near your bed to avoid stumbling around in the dark if you have to get up at night. Make sure stairs have railings, and keep your floors free of clutter

The rates for TBI are highest among those aged 65 and older, and the risks increase as we progress further and further in age. Furthermore, nearly 60% of those who experience a fall will do so again within a year of the first incident. Common causes of the elderly falling include reduced motor skills, declining eyesight, and limited hearing, as well as side effects from medication, complications from illness, and lower bone density.  

Although falls are common among the elderly, awareness of several risk factors can lessen the potential for these incidents. If you have experienced any of the following, you should be aware of potential mobility limitations and plan accordingly:

  • Have fallen within the last year
  • Commonly experience dizziness
  • Have a history of seizures
  • Suffer from neurological disorders
  • Experience numbness in your extremities
  • Walk with assistance from a walker or cane

If you are elderly, you can also avoid the risk of falls through a number of approaches:  

  1. Increase the safety of your living environment–In addition to the measures suggested above, other approaches should be implemented to reduce the risk of falls for the elderly, including storing commonly used items in easily accessible places and installing preventative slip measures in showers and tubs.
  2. Exercise according to your abilities–Many older people feel that physical limitations restrict them from exercising, but there are still ways to stay active. Discuss your exercise options with your doctor(s), and follow their advice unless the activity prescribed causes noticeable pain or discomfort.
  3. Assess your medications–The various physical, mental, and emotional effects of medications can change as we age. Again, discuss whatever medications you are currently taking with your doctor(s) and adjust your usage and/or dosage according to their recommendations to help decrease the risk of falls.

Unintentional Blunt Trauma 

The second leading cause of TBI is unintentional blunt trauma, accounting for approximately 15% of all TBI injuries. These figures account for many of the TBIs that occur in athletics.

For example, more than 20% of TBIs in people under the age of 18 occur while participating in athletics, and the leading cause of death from sports injuries is traumatic brain injury. Unfortunately, coaches, parents, and players alike occasionally ignore these injuries in order to maintain eligibility and continue competing. This is an especially concerning problem since teenagers’ brain tissues are still not fully developed. Furthermore, concussions at this age can result in severe long-term consequences and make subsequent head trauma(s) even more dangerous.

Sports such as football, hockey, boxing, and wrestling are especially dangerous because of the amount of contact that naturally comes along with participation in these activities. Other sports, such as bicycling, basketball, baseball, and winter sports like ice-skating, skiing, and sledding are also risky activities due to the potential for unintentional falls and collisions.  

Many athletes downplay the effects of their injury in order to get back to playing as quickly as possible. Among the many significant dangers of the decision to return to the game before a player is healed is something known as Second Impact Syndrome. After an individual suffers a concussion, the neurovascular system struggles to meet the demand for increased energy. With each new brain injury, the recovery time becomes longer and longer. If a new brain injury occurs before the individual is fully recovered from the first, brain damage and even death can result. Repeated injuries can even cause Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a dangerous condition that cannot be adequately diagnosed until an autopsy can be completed after the individual’s death.  

As a player, coach, trainer, parent, or spectator, if you feel that a participant may have suffered a concussion or traumatic brain injury, alert the proper personnel immediately and do not allow the athlete to keep playing until he or she has been cleared to do so by qualified medical professionals. 

 

Motor Vehicle Collisions 

Motor vehicle collisions account for 14% of all TBIs, and they are also a leading cause of hospital visits for any injury-related TBI. Between 2006 and 2010, automotive crashes accounted for the second-most TBI-related fatalities at 26%.  

When people are involved in a vehicle collision, they often experience what is commonly referred to as whiplash–movement of the brain within the skull resulting from sudden and significant deceleration. This causes nerve cell fibers to become stretched and damaged, which impedes cells’ ability to communicate with one another. Additionally, when the head collides with objects such as a steering wheel, windshield, concrete, etc., the brain will continue to move. This causes a second collision between the brain and skull to occur, which can potentially lead to bruising or bleeding in the brain. Depending on the severity of impact, the brain could also bounce back in the opposite direction and make contact with the other side of the skull, causing even more damage.

To reduce your risk related to motor vehicle traffic and TBI, always wear a seatbelt, never drive under the influence, and make sure to wear a helmet if you are riding a motorcycle, snowmobile, bike, or ATV. Lastly, be sure to follow the law regarding child seats and seat belts for children.

 

TBI and Personal Injury Law

Suffering from a TBI can be life changing. If you or a loved one has experienced a TBI and someone else may be responsible, the Law Office of William D. Cook is here to assist you in every way possible. We can direct you to experienced and respected medical professionals to receive an accurate diagnosis and develop a proactive treatment plan. We can also help you seek compensation if your injury came as the result of another individual’s behavior or negligence. Contact us at (907) 694-2000 or visit us online to discuss the details of your case and schedule a free consultation.

 

References:

Alaska Brain Injury Network, Inc. (n.d.). Brain injury in Alaska. Alaska Brain Injury Network. Retrieved from http://www.alaskabraininjury.net/brain-injury-info/brain-injury-in-alaska/

American Association of Neurological Surgeons. (2014, August). Sports-related head injury. AANS. Retrieved from http://www.aans.org/Patient%20Information/Conditions%20and%20Treatments/Sports-Related%20Head%20Injury.aspx

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015, January 12). Injury prevention & control: Traumatic brain injury. CDC. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/traumaticbraininjury/get_the_facts.html

International Osteoporosis Foundation. (2015). Facts and statistics. International Osteoporosis Foundation. Retrieved from http://www.iofbonehealth.org/facts-statistics

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