Have you ever heard someone say, “it’s just a concussion” after an accident? Concussion has been the subject of much discussion, especially in recent years. It is common to hear concussions brushed off as unimportant or nothing to worry about.
But it’s never just a concussion. Your brain is vulnerable, and a concussion, even a mild one, can affect how you feel, behave, and function. People talking about concussions often interchange the terms concussion and mild traumatic brain injury. Describing a concussion as a bump in the head diminishes the severity of what is a brain injury.
In the United States, nearly three million people visit the emergency room annually for traumatic brain injuries, with 70 percent to 90 percent suffering serious consequences. Statistics show that for each 100,000 New York State residents, the fatality rate of traumatic brain injury ranges from 10.6 to 11.8.
What is a concussion?
Sometimes a concussion is called an invisible injury because, at first, there may not seem to be any visible harm. It is possible for a person to suffer a concussion and not know it or discover it much later. Many people believe the injury is not serious if the victim does not lose consciousness, but various potentially serious effects may still exist. Between 10 and 20 percent may develop persistent problems.
Another myth exists that says only multiple concussions are dangerous. However, researchers report that a single concussion may cause lasting brain damage.
The brain consists of soft tissue, approximately the consistency of gelatin. It floats in a fluid called the cerebrospinal fluid, and it is cradled in the hard shell of the skull. When someone falls or hits their head, the brain is jerked back and forth, striking the inner portion of the skull and potentially causing damage. When damaged, the brain does not function correctly.
Doctors classify concussions as mild, moderate, or severe, depending on several factors. Even mild concussions can produce lifelong disabilities. Rapid treatment can reduce some of the effects, but a traumatic brain injury lawyer can recover compensation for them.
There are different types of concussion
A concussion is a closed head injury, which means that nothing penetrated the skull. Five different concussion types produce various symptoms and require different initial treatments, although in some cases, they may overlap.
Vestibular. The vestibular system is the balance center of the brain. Therefore, this type of concussion can cause trouble with balance, motion, and vision. For example, the victim may feel dizzy or have problems stabilizing their vision when moving the head.
Ocular-motor. These concussions affect the visual part of the brain. Victims may have trouble tracking objects with their eyes, reading, scrolling on a computer screen, driving, bringing their eyes together, or even watching a moving car when crossing the street. Eye strain, nausea, and light sensitivity are common.
Cognitive/fatigue. These concussions can cause victims to have problems with lengthy or complex mental tasks, complex subject matter, and fatigue.
Cognitive issues include:
- Problems with multitasking
- Inability to concentrate
- Trouble learning or retaining new information
Post-traumatic headaches or migraines. Victims with these concussions often have to change their routines to avoid loud or bright gatherings. They often develop sensitivity to light and sound, which triggers intense headaches or nausea.
Anxiety and mood. Concussions can affect someone’s personality and lead to problems with social interaction. The injured person may suffer from anger, irritability, hypervigilance, depression, and fatigue.
Leading causes of concussion
Concussions are a form of traumatic brain injury (TBI).
The leading causes of TBI are:
- Falls. Falls are the most common cause of concussions among all age groups. Each year, millions of people visit the emergency room due to falls. The elderly are at high risk, but so are small children. Work-related falls are also common. If the injured person is alone when they fall, they may not realize they have suffered a concussion.
- Motor vehicle crashes. Motor vehicle accidents are the second leading cause of concussions. The force of the crash typically causes sudden violent head and neck movements. For example, those in the vehicle may suffer whiplash or hit their head on the dashboard, steering wheel, or window.
- Being struck by or hitting an object. Being struck by an external object accounts for 16 percent of all brain injuries. A falling tree limb may strike someone on the head. Carelessly shelved merchandise may strike a customer on the head. There are an estimated 1.6-3.8 million sports– and recreation-related concussions in the United States each year. Football and soccer account for a great many of these. Sometimes injured players are reluctant to report an injury, but it is essential to protect an injured player from further brain injury.
- Assaults. People suffer concussions from violent assaults, such as fights, muggings, or gunshot wounds. Domestic violence is another common cause of brain injuries. Sadly, many of these incidents go unreported and untreated.
- Concussions and military service. Many veterans suffer from concussions and other brain injuries from their military service. Between 5 percent and 35 percent of those deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan sustained a concussion during their active military service. Blase exposures caused about 80 percent of concussions.
Signs and symptoms of concussion
Signs and symptoms generally show up soon after the injury. However, you may not know how serious the injury is at first, and some symptoms may not show up for hours or days. Therefore, someone may have a concussion and not know it.
Common symptoms of concussion include:
- Confusion or disorientation
- Temporary loss of consciousness
- Difficulty thinking clearly
- Vision disturbances (double or blurry vision)
- Dizziness or imbalance
- Nausea or vomiting
- Memory loss
- Slurred speech
- Ringing ears
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sensitivity to light
- Loss of smell or taste
- Trouble falling asleep
- Sleeping more or less than usual
All of these symptoms can result in not only medical bills but pain and suffering, for which a brain injury lawyer can seek compensation for you.
At one time, many mild concussion cases were erroneously disregarded as minor. However, research has shown that even a mild TBI can cause cognitive deficiencies. Failure to get prompt medical care can lead to serious complications. To diagnose a concussion, the doctor evaluates the patient’s motor and sensory skills, cranial nerve function, speech, vision, hearing, coordination/balance, and mental state.
Many doctors use the Glasgow Coma Scale to diagnose a possible brain injury. This test evaluates the level of consciousness in a person after a suspected brain injury. MRIs and CT scans can also help pinpoint areas of brain trauma.
Another test, the Banyan BTI (Brain Trauma Indicator), works by identifying and measuring the levels of two brain-specific proteins that appear in the blood within 12 hours of a brain injury when bleeding has occurred. Another emerging technique, diffusion tensor imaging, can accurately locate a mild TBI so that doctors can tailor a patient’s treatment plan.
Accurate diagnosis and treatment of concussions are vitally important. In one study of deceased former NFL players, researchers found that over 99 percent had permanent brain damage, such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease.
Recent research indicates the possibility of a connection between a concussion and the risk of developing dementia or Parkinson’s disease. Researchers found that even one concussion was related to a higher risk of future dementia or Parkinson’s disease. After moderate to severe trauma, the risk of dementia is 3.77 times higher. Even if the injured person did not lose consciousness, a concussion caused a greater risk.
Every brain and every brain injury is unique. Therefore, each recovery is unique. It may vary between people, but also from one brain injury to another. For example, age affects recovery. The average recovery time for those younger than 18 is 30 days, and for those older than 18 is 14 days.
One recovery goal is to avoid prolonged recovery, but 10 to 30 percent of those with a concussion can experience prolonged recovery. Approximately 20 percent of injured persons will suffer from post-concussion syndrome, meaning their symptoms continue for six weeks or longer.
There are three phases of concussion recovery:
- During the acute phase, immediately following a concussion, doctors recommend about one to three days of rest. In addition, someone should regularly check on the injured person during the first 48 hours. The patient should curtail all activities, such as school or work, and should not take any medication without a doctor’s permission.
- During the recovery phase, the injured person should experience lessening symptoms. They can usually perform more intense thinking and physical activities without symptoms getting worse. Gradually, they can begin to resume activities.
- Recovered phase
Concussion recovery for athletes is a hotly debated issue because repeated concussions can be dangerous. Some medical professionals recommend that an injured athlete abstains from playing sports for about a week. However, full recovery from concussion is estimated at 29.4 days.
Every year, about 4,000 New York children aged 19 and younger are treated at hospitals for sports-related traumatic brain injuries. As of 2019, in New York State, tackle football programs must provide information about concussions and the resulting injuries to all parents and guardians.
Who is most at risk for a concussion?
Adults 65 years and older and children ages four and under have the highest rate of TBI hospitalization or death due to the risk of falls. Adolescents ages 15 to 19 years old are at risk due to bike accidents and sports-related head injuries.
Others at a higher risk for concussion include:
- Those involved in a motor vehicle accident
- Military personnel due to exposure to explosive devices
- Anyone involved in a car accident
- Victims of physical abuse
- Individuals who had a previous concussion or Second Impact Syndrome (SIS), in which the victim suffers a second head injury before they have fully recovered from the first, such as athletes who return to their sport after a concussion.
Pursuing legal action for a concussion
If someone else’s negligence or intentional wrongdoing caused your concussion, you could bring a personal injury suit to recover damages. Medical treatment for concussions and any complications may be long-term or permanent. The resulting bills can be very expensive. It is difficult to predict how long someone will recover and the degree of recovery. For some, the physical pain and emotional devastation can continue for a long time.
The compensation amount reflects many factors, such as the severity of the injury.
Damages may include:
- Medical expenses, including compensation for your reasonably anticipated future medical bills. Keep detailed records of all medical-related costs.
- Lost wages,
- Lost earning capacity, if you are unable to return to your job or your career
- Pain and suffering
- Psychological and emotional distress
- Loss of consortium or companionship
- Any property damage, if applicable
In rare cases, the court awards punitive damages to punish a liable party for egregious or grossly negligent conduct.
Seek legal advice as soon as possible. You must meet deadlines for filing lawsuits, called the statute of limitations. If you do not file within that deadline, the court will dismiss your lawsuit.
How might the concussion affect you and your family?
People may downplay an injury as “just a concussion.” But even a mild traumatic brain injury can leave a lasting impact on the injured person and their family. They may face life-altering cognitive, psychological, and physical consequences. They may struggle to return to school or work or to participate in activities they once enjoyed. Changes in behavior or emotions may disrupt personal relationships. The economic costs of a concussion may be disastrous for the whole family.
If you have suffered a concussion, an experienced, compassionate New York personal injury attorney can explain your options and guide you through the legal process. For more information or a free case evaluation, call a traumatic brain injury lawyer near you today.