Concussions or traumatic brain injuries often occur as a result of a car wreck, or other collision involving a large truck or other vehicle with a motorcycle, bicyclist, or pedestrian. Other brain injuries may be less common, and the results can be unpredictable. In the cases that we see most often, these injuries are the results of concussions, which are also sometimes called mild traumatic brain injuries.
According to the CDC, a concussion is any kind of bump, blow, or jolt to the brain that disrupts the normal function of the brain.
In other cases, the brain injuries can be severe, rather than mild. These are devastating injuries and can be extremely scary for victims and their families because, in many important ways, our brains are us, the most important part of our humanity and the source of our personality. These injuries can produce drastic changes, and scary symptoms if you have never lived through this kind of problem.
Post-concussion problems could involve a brain bleed, and it is not uncommon to see lingering problems with memory loss and recurring headaches. You may have blacked out and lost consciousness for a period of time. Or felt dizzy, nauseated, or perhaps vomited.
Impaired memory can mean retrograde or antegrade amnesia. This kind of head injury may make it difficult to perform the brain coding necessary to form short term memories after the trauma occurs.
You may also face unusual mood or personality changes while recovering, including confusion, but also irritability, lack of patience, depression, and anxiety.
If there was a car wreck, you may have whiplash, and will feel the effects in your neck and head in the ensuing days. That whiplash itself can cause a concussion, as your brain can experience serious trauma, depending on the kind of impact you suffered, whether in a car collision, as a result of a fistfight, or playing sports, like football, ice hockey, or boxing.
If you have suffered this kind of injury, perhaps as a result of an auto wreck, with or without the deployment of an airbag, weeks may go by, and you still may have trouble finding words that you know, but cannot access in your mind. This is a recurring “tip of the tongue” phenomenon that many people will confront when recovering from brain injuries like a concussion. Objective signs of your problems will be difficult to find, as CT scans and MRIs won’t show evidence of the concussion you experienced.
Consultation with an experienced neurologist will likely be necessary. It is not unusual for symptoms to first appear two or three days after the incident. You may be more emotional, experiencing crying more easily, and can experience sudden personality changes. The onset of depression and anxiety are frequent problems as well.
Other problems can crop up as well, including issues with coordination, including walking, playing a musical instrument, or similar difficulties. It may feel like the instructions that your brain sends to your body to complete common tasks aren’t working. That neural pathway may stay rusty or feel limited for an extended period of time as you recover.
Other common symptoms include difficulty remembering new information, mood changes, and sensitivity to light and sound. You may have new sleep problems, including insomnia or difficulty getting to sleep. Trouble focusing or concentrating is common in these cases as well, and you find it impossible to keep up with your list of things to do or your emails, phone calls, and other daily tasks. If you get tired easier, it is a sign your stamina has suffered, and that also is not unusual after a concussion.
Of course, a lot of people know more about brain injuries than we did a generation ago, thanks to the news reports regarding the dangers posed by playing in the National Football League, college football, and other contact sports more generally. The NFL now follows a concussion protocol or checklist, which can give insight into the kinds of symptoms that are common and risk levels.
I remember when I was on the high school football team over twenty years ago, a good friend, who was a fast and talented receiver took a big hit during an away game, and we were not nearly as sophisticated or knowledgeable about the risks at that time. We worked to keep him awake during the bus ride home, as that was thought to be dangerous, but we just thought he “had his bell rung” and that was about it.
Today if an NFL player suffers any of the following symptoms, he will be removed from the game, and will need to be evaluated by an independent neurologist:
- loss of consciousness
- slowness getting up
- balance problems
- a blank look
- clutching the head
- visible injury to face or head
These types of problems after a head injury should also be carefully evaluated off the football field. If these symptoms are seen, an evaluation should take place by competent medical doctors for head or brain injury. There is no timeframe on return to normal activity, but after a period of rest and recovery, it is often recommended that concussion patients then attempt light aerobic activity, such as walking outdoors.
Thanks to modern science, we know more about the after-effects to the brain after trauma. Brain bleeds are common, and the ordinary cerebral pathways and brain chemical functions don’t work as well, or misfire, during this time period, which is sometimes referred to as a “concussion cascade.”
There are many brain functions that require complex types of coordination using different parts of the brain, and these are frequently problem areas after a concussion, including loss of balance and vision problems.
Headaches, light and sound sensitivity can create problems, as our normally functioning brains filter out many of these annoyances without noticing them, but when the person suffering from a traumatic brain injury does not have the benefit of these processes.
Recovery is variable, and it can be a more difficult process the second time if you’ve previously suffered head trauma.
Brain injuries are real, but they cannot be seen, and it is sometimes difficult for friends, family, coworkers, or just people you meet during life to understand your limitations or sensitivities after this kind of event. It can be lonely to feel like you are “walking wounded,” but with wounds that are invisible and hard to understand for others. It can be frustrating to explain why you just don’t feel like yourself or that your thoughts are muddled or foggy.
Your daily patterns may need to change, at least for a time, while you recover. You may need to take time off from work and it may be difficult to be around crowds of people, and you may have other problems that are new as you try to navigate your world after suffering brain injury. As you recover, you may feel stressed when you realize that you are not in control of when or how your abilities return to you.
The Babcock Law Firm helps people that that have suffered catastrophic injuries such as concussions and other traumatic brain injury. If you or a family member need help, contact or call (912) 574-7575 to schedule your consultation today.