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Brain Injuries―Not Just for Pro Athletes

Here in Colorado sports news, we’ve been hearing the words “brain injury”, “concussion” and “hard shot to the head” a lot lately when discussing the injuries of Denver Broncos wide receiver, Wes Welker.  But what does a concussion really mean? A concussion, whether received in an NFL football game or in a car accident, is a traumatic brain injury that can alter the way your brain functions. In the case of Wes Welker, taking a rough hit to the head involves more than enough force to cause a concussion, but it’s important to remember that there are many causes for traumatic brain injuries, and concussions can also be caused when the head and upper body are violently shaken (i.e. whiplash, and shaken baby syndrome). While Welker has officially been cleared to play, starting his postseason on January 12, it’s important to know the causes and symptoms of brain injuries to make sure that you and your loved ones are “cleared to play” every day.

In Colorado alone, about 5,000 individuals are hospitalized due to a traumatic brain injury every year, with about 1,000 deaths. Of this number, about 35% are caused by a fall, 17% are due to a motor vehicle crash, 16.5% are classified as “struck by”, and 10% are caused due to an assault. As each part of the brain has a different function, each brain injury will affect the injured person differently. While the long-term effects of these injuries will vary widely from person to person, the causes and immediate symptoms are often fairly similar.

What Causes a Brain Injury?

While you may have suffered an injury to your head, not all head injuries result in a brain injury.

The brain is a soft organ that sits inside your hard skull for protection. As an added layer of protection, spinal fluid surrounds the brain acting as a cushion to protect the brain from banging around into the walls of the skull. When the head or upper body is hit hard enough it can force the head to one side, forward or backward. With enough force, the brain can become tossed around inside its protective case, and can even crash into the sides of the skull causing bruising, tearing of blood vessels, and even injury to the nerves, causing a concussion.

A Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) can be caused by external forces applied to the head like a blow to the head during a football game or whiplash suffered during a car accident causing the brain to move inside the skull, causing an injury to the brain.

An Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) happens at a cellular level usually caused by pressure on the brain caused by intracranial surgery, a tumor, or a stroke. Other causes include oxygen deprivation caused by airway obstruction or carbon monoxide poisoning.

A brain injury affects the whole person and can impact how a person reacts to daily life including school, work, finances, and relationships.

What Are The Symptoms of a Brain Injury?

A brain injury doesn’t always lead to a loss of consciousness. Some of the most common symptoms of a brain injury are delayed in onset by hours and even days after receiving the injury. If you notice someone take a hard hit, suffer a whiplash injury in a car accident, or otherwise appear to be concussed, you can immediately assess their injury by checking for the following concussion symptoms:

  • Headache, or feelings of pressure in the head
  • Temporary loss of consciousness
  • Confusion – they feel like they’re in a fog
  • Amnesia surrounding the traumatic event
  • Dizziness, nausea, or vomiting
  • Slurred speech
  • Fatigue

If someone has lost consciousness or is exhibiting any of these behaviors, do not attempt to move them without the guidance of a trained medic. A few other concussion symptoms that may be delayed in onset include:

  • Irritability and other personality changes
  • Sensitivity to light and noise
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Depression
  • Disorders of taste and smell

While we tend to think of concussions and brain injuries in terms of adult injuries, young children are also susceptible to these types of injuries. Because toddlers and infants are not always able to recognize these differences in themselves, and can’t communicate how they feel, it’s vital to check for these nonverbal clues when assessing your child’s injuries:

  • Tiring easily
  • Irritability, more cranky than usual
  • Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Loss of balance and unsteady walking
  • Lack of interest in favorite toys and activities

Seek immediate emergency attention if any of the following traits are exhibited following a head injury:

  • Loss of consciousness lasting more than 1 minute
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Obvious difficulty with mental function or physical coordination
  • Symptoms that worsen over time
  • Difference in pupil size

If you or a loved one has suffered a brain injury whether from a car accident, sports injury, or a slip and accident, seek medical attention immediately―it’s better to seek medical attention and not need it, than to wait too long and have a more serious injury develop over time. When visiting your doctor, tell them about the incident surrounding the brain injury. Your doctor will run a series of tests to assess the seriousness of the brain injury and can recommend proper treatment. Remember to call the experienced Denver brain injury attorneys at the Bendinelli Law Firm for a free and confidential consultation today. We’ll help you get the help you need.