brain injury victims after a car accidentWhen people get into car accidents in Denver, one of the most common injuries that they face is head trauma. And yet, in my experience, victims of car accidents often ignore their own brain injury as a result of a car accident while focusing entirely on other injuries, which, of course may be more painful, but perhaps not as life-threatening or long-term as a concussion or other head trauma.

Thanks to news reports and even movies like Will Smith’s “Concussion,” our society is growing more aware of the importance of diagnosing brain injuries. And yet, I find that most of the people I represent still don’t put head trauma diagnosis at the top of their medical needs list after an accident. So, in this blog, I’d like to share more information about concussions and other brain injuries, which you can experience as a result of a car accident and sports injuries. I will also cover the Colorado Brain Injury Waiver, which provides important benefits for people who qualify.

Brain injury victims often ignore a TBI and focus on other injuries instead.

What is a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)?

The Mayo Clinic reports:

“Traumatic brain injury occurs when an external mechanical force causes brain dysfunction.

Traumatic brain injury usually results from a violent blow or jolt to the head or body. An object penetrating the skull, such as a bullet or shattered piece of skull, also can cause traumatic brain injury.

Mild traumatic brain injury may cause temporary dysfunction of brain cells. More serious traumatic brain injury can result in bruising, torn tissues, bleeding and other physical damage to the brain that can result in long-term complications or death.”

Whenever I think of death from a traumatic brain injury, I think of the tragic story of actress Natasha Richardson who fell while skiing at Mont Tremblant ski resort in Quebec. The actress never lost consciousness and even joked about her accident with family. She also chose not to visit a hospital for further evaluation, though a doctor at the resort suggested she do so.

A few hours later, she felt sick and was taken by ambulance to an emergency room and she died a few hours later. An autopsy revealed a diagnosis of epidural hematoma due to a blunt impact to the head.

In a recent interview on 60 Minutes, her husband, actor Liam Neesen, said:

“This doctor, he looked all of 17, showed me her X-ray. And you didn’t need to be a rocket scientist to see what was happening.”

As he explained, “The brain’s squashed up against the side of the skull. And it’s – as the blood tries to get a release.”

He continued, “I was told she was brain dead. And seeing this X-ray it was, like, ‘Wow.’ But obviously she was on life support and stuff. And I went in to her and told her I loved her. Said, ‘Sweetie, you’re not coming back from this.”

[See the full 60 Minutes interview here.]

“Since our brain defines who we are, the consequences of a brain injury can affect all aspects of our lives, including our personality.”

I share this sad story because I cannot emphasize enough how seriously you need to take any big bump to your head, particularly after an auto or motorcycle accident. You may not even know that you bumped your head during an accident because it all happens so fast! Simply put, you must see a doctor after a serious car accident.

Even when the traumatic brain injury (TBI) does not cause death, the effects can still be devastating and so brain injury victims must be be careful with their aftercare:

“Since our brain defines who we are, the consequences of a brain injury can affect all aspects of our lives, including our personality. A brain injury is different from a broken limb or punctured lung. An injury in these areas limit the use of a specific part of your body, but your personality and mental abilities remain unchanged. Most often, these body structures heal and regain their previous function.”

[From TraumaticBrainInjury.com]

Colorado Brain Injury Waiver

Taking care of people with traumatic brain injuries can be a long-term, full-time job. When the injury goes beyond a concussion and causes chronic pain, memory loss, personality changes or other issues, it can be expensive to simply care for your loved one. Sometimes, the person with the brain injury may need to be institutionalized for his or her care, but of course that is never the first option.

Prior to 1991, the Federal Medicaid program only paid for services if a person lived in an institution. Now, thanks to the Colorado Brain Injury Waiver, people with brain injuries can receive long-term care in the community rather than being institutionalized. There are certain criteria that must be met to qualify for this benefit, however. To learn more about who qualifies for the Colorado Brain Injury Waiver, visit Colorado.gov.

Brain Injuries and Sports

Now I have a personal story to share with you. I’ve been coaching my son in soccer since he was five and he’s now 13, so I feel like I’ve seen a lot of injuries and near-misses, but I had never witnessed a concussion until recently. I feel like this is something I should share – as a parent and as a personal injury attorney – because brain injuries are so easy to misdiagnose.

I was coaching my team and it was near the end of practice. As usual, I made the kids run wind sprints (that awful exercise we all hated as kids in which you run up to a line, touch it, run back; then run up to a farther line and run all the way back… over and over). I always make the kids spread out because they can lose their balance when they spin around.

Unfortunately, two of the players got too close and, as one spun around, he clocked another player in the temple. The injured player — a tough, athletic kid — sat right down and started crying.

When I told her that he didn’t know her name, we agreed that he should go directly to the ER.

I asked him questions: “Did everything turn black?” Yes, he said. “Do you see spots or stars?” Yes, he said. And I could tell that his eyes weren’t tracking very well. We sat for a little while and, as he seemed to be recovering, I asked his mother’s name. He didn’t know. I asked his dad’s name. He didn’t know.  Clearly, this was more than “having his bell rung.”

When his mom came to pick him up, I told her about the incident, and like every parent has done (myself included), she said, “He’ll be fine.” But when I told her that he didn’t know her name, we agreed that he should go directly to the ER.

He was diagnosed with a mild concussion and had to stay out of school for several days.

And I learned something: That child said he felt fine within hours of his injury but doctors forbid him from going to school, playing sports, watching TV and even reading… for days! His brain needed rest. Just as a muscle in your body needs rest after an injury, so does your brain.

Brain Injury Alliance Colorado wrote an article on the topic and stated:

“Kids need to cut back on mental exertion, as well as physical exercise, when they’re recovering from a concussion, a new study shows.

Nearly 50 percent of the kids and young adults who didn’t reduce their mental strain took 100 days or more to fully recover, according to the study published in Pediatrics on Monday. Among those who cut back the most, almost all had recovered by 100 days, most within a couple of months.”

Read the complete article.

What are the Symptoms of a Traumatic Brain Injury?

In order to take care of yourself and others, you need to know the common signs and symptoms of a traumatic brain injury. They include:

  • Headache or neck pain that does not go away
  • Difficulty remembering or concentrating
  • Delayed thinking or speaking
  • Fatigue
  • Mood swings
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of senses, such as taste or smell
  • Ringing in the ears

If you experience any of these symptoms, or you are with someone exhibiting these signs, get to a doctor immediately. Time is of the essence not only in the most critical cases (such as Natasha Richardson’s) but also for those facing even a mild concussion. The faster you receive treatment, the sooner your brain can heal and you can avoid long-term issues.

If you have any questions about this article, or if you think you have recently faced a concussion due to a car accident, please contact us!


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