Traumatic Brain Injury
TBI, or Traumatic Brain Injury, can happen to anyone, at any age, and when it does happen, it is devastating – not only for the person who has suffered the TBI, but also for the family members and loved ones surrounding the injured person. TBI is a general term used to describe many sub-types of brain injuries. The following are a few of the most common types of TBI:
Diffuse Axonal Injury
As we all know, the brain is made up of soft tissue and is protected by surrounding fluid and the skull. Unfortunately, these two “protectors” can only do so much to protect the brain. The brain is particularly susceptible to “acceleration” and “impact” types of injuries. That is, where there is no puncture or even fracture of the skull, but where the brain itself hits the front or rear of the skull causing traumatic brain damage and sometimes death. These types of injuries are often referred to as contusions or bruising to the brain. Contusions can occur anywhere, but they are most common in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain.
When the head is thrown forward or backward (such as being hit head-on in an auto accident or rear-ended), energy is transmitted to the brain and the brain literally moves inside the skull. Because some parts of the brain are thicker or denser than others, those parts of the brain move faster than other parts. This causes the nerve fibers in different parts of the brain to move at different speeds as well, resulting in twisting and tearing of the nerve fibers within the different parts of the brain. This causes widespread trauma to the brain. The nerves may no longer communicate with each other as efficiently (if at all) because the stretching and tearing of the nerve fibers set in motion electrochemical damage to the brain’s “wiring system”. You might also have situations where parts of the brain are undamaged but can no longer communicate with the damaged parts due to nerve fiber damage.
Coup Contre-Coup Injury (Cavitation)
If you have been diagnosed with a Coup Contre-Coup injury, then you were likely in an accident where your head was suddenly accelerated. These injuries are caused by the brain hitting the inside of the skull.
These injuries almost always occur as a result of auto accident. For example, if you are a passenger in a car that rear-ends the vehicle in front of it, then your car’s forward motion will stop suddenly. However, your head keeps traveling forward (at the rate of speed that your car was traveling) until something suddenly stops it. In a normal accident, your seatbelt will eventually stop your body from moving forward; then your head and neck continue moving forward until they are stopped by your spine. Once the forward movement stops, then your body and head will be thrown backward, often striking the headrest.
The same motion happens inside your skull. Think of the brain as a passenger inside the skull riding only on a thin layer of cerebral spinal fluid. Just as your head kept on going when the car stopped suddenly, your brain slides backward until it can go no further and suddenly crashes into the back of the skull, thus causing a bruising injury to the brain as a result of the direct impact with the skull.
Rear End Impact
What happens to your head (and brain) when you are rear-ended? The answer is more complex than you think: When your car is rear-ended, the brain first impacts the front of the skull (instead of the rear of the skull – as would occur in a head-on collision). As the head moves rapidly backward, the brain lags behind the bony skull, and when it catches up to the skull, the front of the brain strikes the front of the skull. When this occurs, an area of very low pressure begins in the space between the brain and the back of the skull (almost like a suctioning effect). As a result of this low pressure, bubbles form inside the oxygen-laden blood in the micro vascular system that supplies the back of the brain. Just as your head and body rebound, so does your brain (which initially had struck the front of the skull). Your brain starts moving backward and the low pressure area that had been created in the space between the brain and the rear of the skull is suddenly changed into a high pressure area. When this happens, it causes the bubbles to collapse. The sudden growth and collapse of these vapor bubbles puts tremendous pressure on the microscopic blood vessels in the brain and many times these blood vessels are severely damaged. When these blood vessels are damaged, areas of the brain fed by these vessels are suddenly deprived of oxygen, and death to the brain cells in the rear of the brain occurs.
Hematomas (The Silent Killer)
Often, after an accident, people think that they are not injured because they don’t have any broken bones or they are not bleeding (that they can see). Unfortunately, these people often return home without seeking medical treatment and realize later that they have suffered a hematoma. Hematomas are very serious injuries and require medical treatment immediately to avoid serious brain damage or even death.
What is a hematoma?
A rupture of a blood vessel inside the head which may lead to heavy bleeding or slow leakage of blood out of a blood vessel. The blood will tend to accumulate inside the head and form a hematoma. There are several types of hematomas – but the following are the most common:
- Epidural hematoma: These hematomas form between the skull and the dura mater (the tough outer membrane that covers the brain). These types of hematomas are most commonly seen in connection with a skull fracture. It is very serious and if the hematoma is not removed it can cause brain damage by putting pressure on the brain.
- Subdural hematoma: Probably the most common of the three, a subdural hematoma forms between the dura mater and the underlying (thinner) membranes that cover the brain. These hematomas are seen most often in association with direct damage to the brain. Symptoms from hematomas may appear immediately or gradually as blood seeps out of torn blood vessels. These are the most dangerous because after an accident you may feel fine – unaware that there is a slow (and deadly) blood leak in your brain. This is why it is very important for anyone who has had a head injury to go the doctor or emergency room immediately.
- Intracerebral hematomas: These types of hematomas result from accumulation of blood within the brain caused by bleeding in and around the brain.
What to do if you have suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury
As you can see there are many forms of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), each very complicated. If you or a loved one has suffered a TBI you should contact a lawyer who has real experience with TBI cases. Depending on the cause of the accident, there may be valuable evidence that should be gathered immediately in order to fully protect your rights against the person and/or company that caused the accident. At Braswell Murphy we focus on serious injury cases and have litigated many TBI cases successfully for our clients. If you would like to speak with a lawyer about your TBI case you can contact us 24/7 at 800-554-9260 or by email.