The Causes and Effects of Brain Injuries
The brain is central to thought, movement, emotion and vital bodily functions. Brain injuries may occur through work-related accidents, car accidents, slip and fall accidents, diseases or even from complications at birth. The potentially devastating effects of brain injuries are as widely varied as the injuries that cause them. If you or a loved one has suffered a brain injury, a lawyer who has experience handling brain injury claims can explain your legal options.
Types of Traumatic Brain Injuries
The brain may be injured as a result of a non-contact injury or disease. One of the most common non-contact injuries is whiplash. A violent jolting of the head can cause nerve shearing. Nerve shear is defined as the tearing of the fragile nerve fibers in the brain. This type of injury can be difficult to diagnose, but the effects can be devastating.
In addition, certain parts of the brain may be injured during medical emergencies such as stroke or heart attack. Stroke (also known as cerebrovascular accident or CVA) and heart attack may affect the brain’s blood and oxygen supply causing localized or even widespread brain damage. In addition, the brain may be injured as a result of a near drowning, suffocation or heart-stopping electrical shock. When the brain is deprived of oxygen and the brain cells die as a result of oxygen deprivation, it is known as an anoxic brain injury, which is different from traumatic brain injury. With a traumatic brain injury, there is bruising and swelling of the brain.
A contact traumatic brain injury causes damage to the brain as a result of external force to the head. A contact traumatic brain injury may either be a penetrating head injury, such as when a bullet or other object penetrates the brain, or a closed head injury, such as when the head hits the dashboard or windshield in a car accident or a person falls down the stairs and hits his or her head. If the head is moving at the time of the contact, there may be a contrecoup injury. With this type of injury, the brain damage occurs on the side opposite of the point of impact when the brain is slammed into that side of the skull. Common causes of contact traumatic brain injuries include:
- Sports mishaps
- Work-related accidents
- Slip and fall or trip and fall accidents
- Car, truck, motorcycle or pedestrian accidents
- Violence and assault
A closed head injury is caused by external force to the head that does not penetrate the skull. Even though an object may not penetrate the head, the potential for injury is still high. In fact, a closed head injury is often more dangerous than a penetration injury. When the brain is jostled in its entirety, there is a greater chance of more widespread damage than when compared to a penetration injury, which typically affects only one area of the brain.
Brain swelling and bruising may result from a violent blow to the skull. After the head is hit, the brain can “bounce” off the inside of the skull. This may cause nerve shearing as well as swelling and bruising of nerve tissue. This swelling can create pressure inside of the head, which in turn leads to compression of vital blood vessels, hindering the brain’s blood and oxygen supply.
Effects of Brain Injuries
The effects of a head injury largely depend on the severity of the accident and the location of the injury within the brain. All head injuries have the potential to be serious. Something as common as a concussion can have serious or long-term effects. The following conditions can all be the result of a traumatic brain injury:
Concussion — A concussion is a common result of a non-penetrating blow to the head. It results from the jarring of the brain inside the skull. The common early symptoms of concussion include dizziness, vertigo or loss of equilibrium, nausea, vomiting and headache. A concussion may result in a period of altered consciousness during which a person is dazed or disoriented. Common long-term effects of a head injury involving concussion are:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Poor memory
- Ringing in ears
- Poor concentration
- Slowed reaction time
- Intolerance to loud noise
- Mood swings and altered personality
- Difficulty choosing words
Skull Fracture — A skull fracture can be either open or closed, and it generally is the result of a large amount of force applied to the head. Symptoms associated with a skull fracture include bleeding from the middle ear, bruising behind the ear and darkening around the eyes.
Brain Contusion — A contusion or bruise may be found under the site of the impact or on the opposite side from the impact. In addition to bruising, there may be swelling and neurological dysfunction.
Epidural Hematoma — An epidural hematoma is the collection of blood between the dura, which is the skull’s outer shell, and the inner table of the skull.
Subdural Hematoma — A subdural hematoma is caused by a tearing of a bridging vein between a draining venous sinus and the cerebral cortex, and it often results from a whiplash injury. A subdural hematoma will generally look like a crescent-shaped blood collection between the dura and the brain on a CT scan.
Brain Herniation — Brain herniation is caused by increased intracranial pressure. This pressure can cause the patient’s level of consciousness to deteriorate.
Coma — A severe head injury may cause a coma. Coma is defined as the state of unconsciousness from which a patient cannot be awakened or aroused, even by powerful stimulation. A coma sufferer will lack any response to his or her environment. Comas may last only a few days or many years.
Amnesia — Amnesia is generally defined as the loss of memory or as a period of forgetfulness. There are two types of amnesia that may follow a head injury. Anterograde amnesia is defined as the inability to remember events beginning with the onset of the injury. In contrast, retrograde amnesia is defined as the loss of memory regarding events preceding the injury.
Effects of Severe Brain Damage
When a head injury is severe it can dramatically affect a person’s ability to return to a normal life. Depending on the location and severity of the injury, there may be physical and/or behavioral effects. A severe head injury may affect a person’s ability to work, learn, live with his or her family and handle everyday tasks.
The following are possible physical effects of brain injury:
- Difficulty with mobility and coordination
- Difficulty talking and communicating
- Severe headaches
- Difficulty with sensation
The following are possible behavioral effects of brain injury:
- Personality changes
- Short attention span
- Learning difficulties
- Memory difficulties
Head and brain injuries have the potential to be serious, life-altering events. Often, serious effects do not show up until years after an injury. If you or a loved one has suffered a brain injury, a lawyer who has experience representing clients in brain injury cases can evaluate your situation and explain your legal options.
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