The Impact of Head Injuries from Car Accidents
Head injuries are some of the most common injuries sustained in car accidents. The injuries range from very mild concussions to brain death. Our brains affect every part of who we are and what we can do. A traumatic brain injury can impact our motor skills, critical thinking, memory, personality, and mental health. Many head injuries may be temporary with few symptoms. But any bump or blow to the head puts you at risk for more serious damage if you were ever to face the same injury again.
Signs of a Head Injury after a Car Accident
You can sustain a head injury in a car accident by hitting your head, or even from whiplash. You may experience symptoms of a head injury immediately, or the symptoms may develop over the next few hours or days. Symptoms of a head injury could even take several weeks to appear.
Signs you may have a head injury include:
- difficulty remembering
- dizziness or vertigo
- blurred or double vision
- sensitivity to light and sound
- nausea or vomiting
- fainting or losing consciousness
Young children and even adults may have trouble communicating after a head injury. This means they might not be able to describe their symptoms. If anyone involved in a car accident exhibits the following signs, seek medical attention for them right away:
- difficulty staying awake
- excessive crying or irritability
- slurred speech
- delayed reactions
- difficulty with balance or vision
- other strange behavior
Common Head Injuries Caused by Car Accidents
- Concussion (Mild Traumatic Brain Injury): This common brain injury is usually temporary, but increases your chances for permanent damage upon re-injury.
- Hematoma: Clotting or pooling of blood outside of the blood vessels.
- Hemorrhage: Uncontrolled bleeding from the brain.
- Skull Fracture: A cracked or broken skull increases the chances of traumatic brain injury.
- Edema (swelling): Swelling causes your brain to push against your skull.
- Shear Injury (diffuse axonal injury): an extremely dangerous head injury caused by rapid acceleration and deceleration (such as a high-speed car crash) that often leads to unconsciousness, coma, or permanent vegetative state.
Second Impact Syndrome
When someone suffers a second head injury before the brain has properly healed from the first injury, this is “second impact syndrome.” Second impact syndrome results in severe brain swelling. This is because the brain loses its ability to self-regulate. Symptoms come on quickly and will usually include unconsciousness and respiratory failure. Although second impact syndrome is rare, it is typically fatal.
Long-Term Effects of Concussion and Traumatic Brain Injury
Serious concussions may take months to fully heal. They may cause ongoing headaches, confusion, dizziness, physical and cognitive difficulties, and mood swings. Recovery from other traumatic brain injuries is a much longer and slower process. While some people with TBI make a complete recovery, others never fully return to normal. It is normal for TBI survivors to experience partial or total paralysis, limited cognitive function, trouble speaking, difficulty with problem-solving and critical thinking, and emotional problems. Severe TBI can also result in long-term coma and brain death.
Recovering from a Head Injury After a Car Accident
Treatment for a head injury depends on the type and severity of the injury. Medical treatment may include surgeries, rehabilitative therapy, and medications to manage pain and prevent seizures.
With any head injury, rest is very important. Recovery should take place in a low-stimulus environment. This means reducing the lighting and noise level in your home, hospital room, or rehabilitative facility. Friends and family may want to rush to your side after a serious car accident. But it’s imperative to limit interactions with visitors until you are feeling better.
Avoid physical and mental exertion while recovering from a head injury. Frequent naps are necessary for your brain to make a full recovery. Avoid activities that require thinking and problem-solving. This includes leisurely activities that were easy for you before the accident. Things like reading, playing video games, puzzles, texting, and even too much talking.
Your doctors and rehabilitative therapists will instruct you on how to gradually increase the amount of mental work you perform. When you are ready to return to work or school, you may need to do so on light duty or reduced schedule. As with any injury, it is important to follow your doctor’s orders exactly. Refusing treatments or therapy exercises will only extend or exacerbate your injuries. Your doctor may prescribe medication for pain, nausea, and other symptoms. Always check with your physician before trying an unprescribed medication or home remedy. Even innocuous over-the-counter medicines can have unintended side effects. For example, taking ibuprofen can increase your risk of brain bleeds.
Dealing with Personality Changes
Even a mild traumatic brain injury (concussion) can cause permanent personality changes. This head injury symptom is often overlooked by families and medical professionals trying to cope with the other ramifications of a brain injury. Mood swings, personality changes, emotional difficulties, and mental health problems are all common after suffering a head injury. These symptoms could subside over time, or may be permanent.
The pain and stress of dealing with any serious physical injury is enough to cause depression, anxiety, and anger issues in some people. However, brain injuries in particular can cause a permanent change in the wiring of the brain. This may lead to changes in temperament, impulse issues, irritability, and aggressive behavior. It also causes some to lose the “filter” most of us use to behave appropriately in social situations. TBI survivors may lose interest in their former hobbies and struggle to connect in their personal relationships. These personality changes are often permanent. However, psychotherapy can help TBI patients deal with these changes in a healthy way. Medication may also be an effective treatment for those struggling with depression and other mental health difficulties.
Call a Denver Colorado Car Accident Attorney
If you or a loved one has suffered a head injury in a car accident, it is best to consult with a personal injury attorney. The Law Office of Steve Roberts, LLC offers a free, no-obligation consultation to car crash victims. Contact our office in Denver, Colorado to schedule your free case review.