With football-caused concussions and brain disease grabbing so much attention, it’s easy to forget that sports are a relatively uncommon source of traumatic brain injury, or TBI, among the general population.
In fact, motor vehicle accidents and falls are responsible for most TBIs suffered by Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 2 million Americans per year experience TBI, with 14.3% caused by traffic accidents and 40.5% caused by falls.
That means some 286,000 TBIs result from car crashes annually. The actual number may be much higher, because brain injuries aren’t always immediately obvious after an accident. Indeed, TBI is commonly referred to as a “silent” epidemic because many people do not associate brain injury with concussions—the most common form of TBI.
TBIs take two forms: open and closed. An open (or penetration) TBI occurs when a foreign object goes through the skull and enters the brain. A closed head injury, by contrast, is caused by a bump or blow to the head.
Closed head injuries are much more common than penetrating head injuries in crashes. They typically occur when the head strikes the windshield, dashboard or steering wheel.
Research indicates that even low-speed car accidents can result in mild brain trauma. Not only that, but mild TBI/concussions are increasingly recognized as a source of brain damage that can cause long-term problems with thinking and memory.
Even if you’re involved in a slow-speed fender bender, TBI—and a host of associated complications—can occur. Unfortunately, TBI symptoms may not be immediately obvious amidst the confusion and stress that follow an accident.
Protect yourself and your loved ones (especially children, as developing brains are at greater risk for TBI) by remaining vigilant for these TBI symptoms:
- Loss of consciousness
- Headache, nausea or vomiting
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Dizziness/loss of balance
- Pupils not equally dilated
- Blurred vision or ringing in the ears
- Light or noise sensitivity
- Problems with memory or concentration
- Changes in mood, including depression, irritability or anxiety
For a comprehensive list of concussion symptoms, visit the Mayo Clinic website. The clinic recommends erring on the side of caution and seeking prompt medical attention for any suspected brain injury, no matter how mild it appears to be.
Also keep in mind that a concussion/TBI diagnosis from a doctor can serve as invaluable evidence in an auto accident insurance dispute or lawsuit in which you are seeking compensation for medical bills. An insurer may try to argue that minor vehicle damage is proof that the harm to vehicle occupants wasn’t serious, but medical records can prove otherwise.