Automobile accidents that result in head injury can leave a victim of such a devastating circumstance permanently disabled. Many brain injuries are caused by a car vehicle passenger or driver hitting their heads with tremendous force on windows, dashboards, or windshields of automobiles. The human skull, while hard and designed to protect the brain from minor shocks and bumps, does not provide enough protection to the brain in a high impact blow to the head.
Closed Head Injuries
While open head wounds are obvious to medical personnel treating the injured, in the event of a closed head wound – no outward signs of injury or distress – the injured individual is in grave danger of being misdiagnosed and released from medical care without the proper examination and medical assistance.
Monitoring a Head Injury
For a closed head injury, the damage occurs internally to the brain and spinal cord. Concussions account for a large number of closed brain injury. A concussion can cause a victim to feel dizzy, confused, tired, and nauseated. Most often, a headache also follows the concussion. It is important for the patient’s well-being to be closely monitored in case there is a loss of consciousness which could lead to coma and death if the injury is more severe than previously thought.
Emergency Medical Treatment
A closed head injury following an automobile accident can be even more serious than a simple concussion. In many cases, the injured develop bleeding and swelling of the brain. This is a very urgent medical situation that in most cases requires surgical intervention to alleviate the pressure to the brain caused by the collection of blood and fluid in such an enclosed and space-limited area as the skull. If the pressure is not relieved in time, the resulting pressure could cause potentially severe brain damage or even death. In many cases, cognitive, physical, and speech deficits are the result of closed head injury.
Some of the resulting damage may be permanent. A greatly overlooked consequence of head injuries is that of the psychological status of the injured. Quite often individuals who have sustained head injuries appear to physically improve to that of their previous healthy state. However, once the individual resumes their normal daily routine prior to the injury, mental issues and psychological changes become evident. Psychological damage from a brain injury tends to be noticed by those who interact with the injured person on a regular basis such as family, friends, and coworkers. Psychological consequences of a brain injury may be minor or major, depending upon the area of the brain that has been effected.
Coping with Head Injuries
One of the tragic end results of head injuries is that the injured party may realize the difference. Anxiety, frustration, and depression are common after effects of such a devastating injury. For individuals who may be unable to resume their normal career, job, or responsibilities due to the head injury, there is assistance available through disability compensation programs that are state and federally sponsored to help supplement the injured individual’s income in order to relieve some of the financial burden that may have resulted from the injury.
Brain injury as a result of automobile accidents is quite common, affecting approximately 280,000 Americans every year. With a total of approximately 1.4 million traumatic brain injuries that take place each year, this makes automobile accidents the second most common cause of brain injury after falling. The injury can range from mild to severe and can present itself through a number of ways such as whiplash, blunt force trauma, or penetrating trauma when an object actually penetrates the head.
Whiplash, which results from the jerking of the head after a collision, is one of the most common forms of brain injury and can prove permanently debilitating. Because the brain is enclosed and suspended in the skull, when the automobile comes to a stop during an automobile accident, the brain does not. Instead, it continues to move forward at a high velocity, slamming into the side of the skull. Because of the vast network of nerves which are connected to the brain, whiplash frequently results in the stretching of these nerve fibers and, occasionally, in lesions in these fibers. This is referred to as Diffuse Axonal Injury or DIA, which often results in a coma. These same results can be seen in those individuals who have struck their head during automobile accidents as well. The brain is quite delicate and is easily damaged and whiplash as well as blunt force trauma will sometimes cause the brain to bleed and tear at the point where it collided with the skull.
Bleeding of the brain, or intracranial hematoma, is a very serious injury and needs to be addressed immediately or it can become life threatening. Edema, or swelling, can also occur in the brain leading to an increased pressure on the nerves and tissue. This can lead to a decrease in circulation and, like intracranial hematoma, must be treated in order to avoid serious permanent brain damage.
Frontal Lobe Damage
Typically, the area that is most damaged during an automobile accident is the lobes toward the front of the brain, namely the frontal and the temporal lobe. The frontal lobe is responsible for conscious thought, such as the ability to choose between possible actions and other higher mental functions. Damage to the frontal lobe can result in mood and personality changes and decrease one’s personal control. The temporal lobe is responsible for the individual’s ability to compute stimuli such as smell and sound and damage to this part of the brain could both affect the individual’s ability to recognize such stimuli as well as other aspects such as speech. The brain, upon colliding with the front of the skull, sometimes bounces back and collides in a similar fashion with the back of the brain affecting the occipital lobe which controls visual perception.
Common Side Effects
Regardless of the type of traumatic brain injury that was received, three of the most common side effects from such injury include loss of consciousness, concussion, and amnesia. Depending upon the extent of the sustained injury, loss of consciousness may range from a couple of seconds to days and/or weeks in a coma with the longer the coma indicating a greater extent of injury. Concussion, which can also vary in intensity, often presents itself through headaches and nausea with erratic eye movements, vomiting, and loss of consciousness indicating a more serious concussion. Amnesia, or memory loss, is also an often side effect of brain injury with the greater the amnesia again indicating a greater injury to the brain.
Precautions, such as the use of seat belts, child safety seats, and helmets when necessary, should be taken to avoid traumatic brain injury.