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Brain Injury Guide: What Do You Need to Know After a Traumatic Accident?

Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are severe medical conditions that can have lasting consequences. For individuals diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries – or those experiencing TBI symptoms and have not yet been diagnosed – it is important to understand the short-term and long-term effects and ensure that you are making sound decisions based on reliable, professional medical advice.

Unfortunately, since there have been significant advancements in the medical community’s understanding of the risks associated with TBI relatively recently, there is a lot of inaccurate information out there. In this guide, we provide an overview of some of the critical up-to-date information, provide clarity regarding some common myths, and provide resources for individuals who need help recovering from (or coping with) the effects of a traumatic brain injury.

Concept art of a brain injury

Understanding the Signs and Symptoms of Brain Trauma

Let’s start with the signs and symptoms of brain trauma. It can be difficult for many people to identify certain feelings and conditions as being associated with brain trauma. While some traumatic events are obvious, it will not be clear that a person has suffered a traumatic brain injury in many cases. As a result, if you or a member of your family has been involved in an accident, it is important to be mindful of TBI’s signs promptly and seek medical treatment promptly if you have concerns about a possible traumatic brain injury.

The signs and symptoms of brain trauma can be broadly divided into three categories: (i) physical, (ii) cognitive, and (iii) psychological. Physical symptoms of brain trauma can include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness or difficulty maintaining balance
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Visual impairments
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Slurred speech

Cognitive symptoms of brain trauma can include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Forgetfulness
  • Difficulty with reason or logic
  • Difficulty planning, organizing, and assembling
  • Disorientation
  • Confusion
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Trouble speaking or communicating coherent thoughts

Psychological symptoms of brain trauma can include:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Personality changes

5 Types of Events Most Likely to Cause Brain Trauma

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) define brain trauma as “a disruption in the normal function of the brain that can be caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head, or penetrating head injury.” The CDC also notes that “[e]veryone is at risk for a TBI, especially children and older adults.”

With this definition in mind, you can see that numerous different types of accidents and incidents have the potential to result in TBI. However, some of the most common causes of brain trauma include:

1. Auto Accidents

The forces involved in a car accident are more than enough to cause a traumatic brain injury. While TBI can result from an impact to the head during a car accident, a sudden jolt without impact (i.e., whiplash) can cause brain trauma as well.

2. Falls

Falls are common accidents; and, when a person hits or her head on the ground or any other object, a traumatic brain injury is a very real possibility. According to the CDC, about half of TBI among children and more than three-quarters of TBI among older adults result from falls.

3. Sports Collisions

Sports collisions also have the potential to lead to crashes. This includes head-to-head collisions in football and incidental collisions during basketball, hockey, soccer, and other sports. Gymnasts, cyclists and other athletes can also be at risk for TBI when they fall or collide with objects or other athletes.

4. Military Duty

Serving in the line of duty presents risks for brain trauma—in addition to the multitude of other dangers that military servicemen and servicewomen face daily. Many members of the military come home from training exercises and serving overseas with TBI.

5. Gunshots and Physical Violence

Gunshots and physical violence account for a smaller, but still significant, portion of traumatic brain injuries in the United States. In addition to criminal assaults, this includes physical violence during consensual fights (including mixed martial art (MMA) fighting).

5 Common Myths about Brain Trauma

As we mentioned above, since much of the scientific and medical knowledge regarding traumatic brain injuries is still relatively new, there is currently a lot of outdated information about TBI still available on the Internet. For example, here are five common myths about brain trauma:  

1. A Concussion is a “Minor” Injury Without Long-Term Effects

While concussions are the most common form of traumatic brain injury, these are not “minor” injuries. Any damage to the brain needs to be taken very seriously. Although recovery is generally possible with adequate rest, individuals diagnosed with concussions can experience long-term effects if they do not appropriately care for their injuries. In particular, this means doing everything possible to avoid a second concussion during the recovery process.

2. If You Don’t Lose Consciousness, You Don’t Have a Traumatic Brain Injury

You do not need to lose consciousness to suffer a traumatic brain injury. It is entirely possible (and common) to suffer a concussion or other form of TBI without ever losing consciousness.

3. An MRI or CT Scan Can Conclusively Determine the Existence of a Brain Injury

Although MRIs and CT scans are extremely powerful and effective medical testing devices, they cannot detect everything. While evidence of a traumatic brain injury may show up on a patient’s scans, it is also possible that microscopic lesions resulting from brain trauma will not be visible.

4. It is Possible to Recover Quickly from a Traumatic Brain Injury

The consensus is that it takes a minimum of 7 to 10 days to recover from a mild concussion. For more-severe concussions, the recovery period can last several weeks; and, for more-severe types of TBI, recovery can take anywhere from months to years. The brain needs time to heal after an injury, and there is no rushing of the process.

5. Rest Is Not Important When You Have a Traumatic Brain Injury

When a person has suffered a concussion, one of the most dangerous things he or she can do is return to physical activity—particularly physical activity such as a sport where another injury is highly possible. When recovering from a traumatic brain injury, rest is extremely important, as this gives the brain time to heal without the risk of further damage.

What Should You Do After Suffering a Traumatic Brain Injury?

If you are concerned that you, your spouse, your child or any other member of your family may have suffered a traumatic brain injury, what should you do? Generally speaking, the steps to take when you have concerns about an accident-related TBI include:

  • Seek medical attention promptly. First and foremost, you should seek medical attention for yourself or your loved one right away. To make informed decisions, you need to have an accurate diagnosis, and you need to follow a treatment protocol that has been recommended by an experienced medical professional.
  • Follow your doctor’s advice. When recovering from any type of injury, it is important to follow your doctor’s advice. Recovering from a TBI is no exception. If you ignore your doctor’s advice, not only could you prolong the recovery process, but you could also potentially risk doing additional (and possibly long-term) damage.
  • Consult with a brain injury lawyer. The costs of recovering from a TBI can be substantial; and, if your (or your loved one’s) TBI resulted from an accident, you might be entitled to financial compensation. A personal injury lawyer who is experienced in representing brain injury victims will advise you of your legal rights.

What Should You NOT Do After Suffering a Traumatic Brain Injury?

Just as important as taking the steps listed above is avoiding mistakes that could hinder your recovery. With this in mind, after suffering a traumatic brain injury, you should not:

  • Ignore your doctor’s advice. While you may not need surgery or other invasive treatment, your brain still needs time to recover if you have suffered a TBI. As a result, you should make sure you clearly understand your doctor’s advice, and you should follow it carefully.  
  • Ignore the need for rest. Resting after a traumatic brain injury is important for two reasons. First, it gives your brain time to heal. Since your brain cannot be put into a cast or held in place with a brace, it merely needs time without movement. Second, it mitigates your risk of suffering a subsequent TBI before your brain fully heals.
  • Take unnecessary risks. While you may be anxious to return to work or play, it is extremely important that you not take unnecessary risks when you have suffered brain trauma. Suffering a second injury while your brain is still healing can heighten the consequences, and it significantly increases the chances of suffering long-term effects.

Resources for California Residents Coping with the Effects of Traumatic Brain Injuries

If you have questions about traumatic brain injuries or the recovery process after being diagnosed with a TBI, you can visit these resources for additional information: