Though you may have heard of or even suffered from concussions, many people do not associate this increasingly common injury with a traumatic brain injury. A concussion even a so-called “mild concussion” is, in fact, a traumatic brain injury. You could sustain more long-term damage than you might think. Usually, people suffer concussions due to a blow to the head. You might fall, stumble into a wall, get hit in the head while playing sports, or hit your head in a car accident.
Common Causes of Concussions
When the soft tissue in the brain hits the skull, the impact damages nerves and blood vessels, causing the brain to malfunction.
Some of the common causes of concussions include:
- Vehicle accidents, including motorcycle accidents and truck accidents.
- Falling and hitting your head.
- Playing contact sports.
- Physical abuse.
- Not wearing safety gear, such as helmets when riding bicycles and motorcycles or playing sports.
Additionally, if this is not your first concussion, it is easier to suffer a concussion the next time you hit your head. If the impact that causes the concussion bleeds too much, it could be fatal. Thus, anyone suffering a concussion needs someone to watch them for hours after the injury.
Complications of a Concussion
Even what might be diagnosed as a mild concussion could cause additional complications, including headaches up to a week after the initial injury, vertigo that could last several months, and thinking difficulties that last over three weeks.
Additionally, any head injury could lead to complications later in life, such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy. This is a newer disease that doctors do not know much about. They can guess that you have it based on symptoms but can only diagnose it during an autopsy.
The biggest problem with diagnosing a concussion is that doctors cannot see a concussion. In some cases, accident victims might not exhibit signs of a concussion for days or weeks after the accident. Some symptoms could last for mere seconds, while others could last for weeks or even months or longer.
If you suspect you might have a concussion, you should go to the emergency room immediately. The signs of a concussion might include one or more of the following:
#1. Physical Symptoms
- Light or noise bothers you.
- You might have a hard time balancing, or you might feel dizzy.
- You might feel groggy or tired all the time.
- You could suffer from headaches.
- You might experience nausea or vomiting.
- You could experience problems with your vision.
- You might be more clumsy.
- You could develop slurred speech.
- You might develop ringing in your ears.
- You could lose consciousness for a few seconds to hours or longer, though with mild concussions, people generally do not lose consciousness for more than a few minutes.
- You could have issues with senses, such as taste and smell.
- You could look dazed to others.
- You could develop seizures.
#2. Cognitive Symptoms
- Trouble paying attention or concentrating.
- Your thinking might feel as if it slowed down.
- Thoughts might seem foggy and confused, or your thinking process might not be clear.
- You could experience short-term or long-term memory issues, including repeating yourself.
- It might take you longer to respond to questions.
#3. Social or Emotional Symptoms
- You might become anxious or nervous.
- You become easily irritated.
- You could develop anger issues.
- You might feel more emotional, including crying more than usual.
- You might feel sad or suffer from depression.
#4. Sleep-Related Symptoms
- You could sleep more than normal.
- You could sleep less than normal.
- You could have trouble falling asleep.
- You could become fatigued.
#5. Danger Signs
Sometimes, even mild concussions could lead to serious symptoms, such as a blood clot forming in the brain.
If you exhibit any of the following symptoms, you should see go to the emergency room immediately:
- Slurred speech or unusual behavior.
- Headaches that consistently get worse or do not go away.
- Repeated vomiting.
- One pupil is bigger than the other.
- You look drowsy, cannot wake up, or you lose consciousness after you initially lose consciousness after an accident.
- You feel numb or weak.
- Your coordination continues to decrease.
- You develop seizures or convulsions.
- You get confused easily, cannot recognize people, or seem agitated or restless.
Danger signs in children include those listed above, plus not eating or nursing and becoming inconsolable.
Diagnosing a Mild Concussion
Because doctors and medical professionals cannot see concussions, they must rely on the symptoms you exhibit. You should always tell your doctor all of the symptoms you have, even if they seem minor. Additionally, medical professionals can use testing to help diagnose a concussion.
When you first go into the hospital, doctors will most likely take a neurological history, including checking your hearing, vision, balance, coordination, strength, sensation, and reflexes. The medical professional might also as you some questions to test your cognitive function, including recalling information, concentration, and memory.
If a doctor believes you might have suffered a concussion, they might take some imaging tests, including a CT scan or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test. The doctor could also keep you overnight or require that someone at home observe you for at least 24 hours, including waking you up frequently to make sure you can wake up normally.
When Symptoms Do Not Disappear
Usually, general symptoms may dissipate in two to three weeks. However, if some or all symptoms do not resolve, or if new symptoms appear, you should go to the hospital as soon as possible. Be sure to tell medical professionals that you suffered a mild concussion, but symptoms have not disappeared or new symptoms appeared, whichever the case.
One of the issues with suffering repeated concussions from accidents or sports injuries is that studies have shown that people could develop chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). This rare brain degeneration disease does not usually show up immediately after someone suffers from one or more concussions. Nor is it well understood. Researchers still have not determined how many repeated head traumas a person needs to suffer before developing CTE.
Doctors can only diagnose CTE during an autopsy in most cases. However, in some cases where people have had high-risk exposures, doctors can make a diagnosis when the person is alive.
Symptoms of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy
While doctors cannot make a positive diagnosis in life, those that have been found to have CTE have exhibited certain symptoms during life, including:
- Memory loss.
- Cognitive impairment.
- Issues with organization tasks.
- Aggression or impulsive behavior.
- Apathy or depression.
- Substance misuse.
- Emotional issues.
- Suicidal behavior or thoughts.
- Motor neuron disease or Parkinsonism.
Researchers believe that some symptoms, such as behavioral and mental health symptoms develop earlier possibly in the patient’s 20s and 30s in one form of CTE. In a second form of the disease, researchers have found that those at around 60 years of age suffer from thinking and memory issues that could turn into dementia.
Determining When a Patient Has CTE
During autopsies, researchers found a buildup around the blood vessels in the brain. The protein looks different than the tau protein buildup seen in people with other forms of dementia. In most cases, this is the only way to tell if a person had CTE. However, doctors can make a probable diagnosis by looking at the signs and symptoms of those with probably CTE.
Recoverable Damages After an Accident That Causes a Concussion
If you suffered a concussion, even a mild concussion, always let your accident attorney know how many concussions you had in your life. While it is difficult to determine if anyone will develop CTE later in life, if there is a good chance of it, the attorney will fight to get you the compensation you deserve.
After an incident or accident that caused a concussion, you could recover compensatory damages in the form of economic damages and non-economic damages.
Sometimes referred to as special damages, economic damages have a monetary value. The court orders the defendant to pay them in an attempt to make you whole again. While the money cannot remove injuries or make you feel better, it does remove the stress of not being able to work and caring for your family.
Economic damages include:
You could recover compensation for medical expenses from the time you incurred the injuries in the accident through the time you received a settlement or trial award. You could also recover compensation for future disabilities if your doctor believes the injuries you sustained in the accident will cause long-term or permanent disabilities
Medical expenses include doctors’ appointments, surgeries, follow-up appointments, prescriptions, ambulatory aids, physical therapy, occupational therapy, cognitive therapy, and psychological therapy. They could also include the installation of hand controls in your vehicle, grab bars in your showers, wheelchair ramps, and widened doorways in your house.
After an accident that caused a concussion and other injuries, you might not be able to work for a few days or even a few months. You could recover lost wages for the time you cannot work. Additionally, if doctors believe that your injuries will result in long-term or permanent disabilities, you could also recover the future loss of earning capacity.
If you had property that an accident damaged, the defendant is liable for replacing or repairing it. Personal property might include your vehicle and anything of value in it, such as cell phones, computers, and clothing.
Sometimes referred to as general damages, non-economic damages do not have a monetary value. No one can put a price on the losses you suffer in an accident. However, the court orders a defendant to pay non-economic damages to pay you for the losses that the defendant caused. Non-economic damages are generally awarded to those who have injuries that doctors expect to turn into long-term or permanent disabilities or those who lost a loved one due to an accident.
Even if your loved one lives for a short time after the accident, you could recover non-economic damages in a wrongful death action. For example, your loved one suffered injuries, including a concussion, in an accident but seemed fine for a couple of months after they recovered. Suddenly, your loved one developed persistent headaches and died.
If doctors find that an aneurism caused the headaches (most likely caused by the concussion), you could recover non-economic damages, which include:
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress.
- Loss of quality of life if you have to take prescriptions or use ambulatory aids for the rest of your life. You could also recover compensation if you develop early-warning signs of CTE.
- Loss of consortium if you can no longer enjoy a physical relationship with your spouse.
- Loss of use of a bodily function, such as your eyesight or bladder.
- Loss of use of a body part, such as a hand or toe.
- Inconvenience if you have to hire someone to do the chores you regularly do, such as gardening, house cleaning, lawn maintenance, grocery shopping, and home repair and maintenance.
- Amputation of a limb or digit.
- Excessive scarring or disfigurement.