Lawyers for retired NFL players have brought recent attention to the risk of brain damage in professional sports. But brain damage is not just a hazard when you are knocked to the ground by a 350-pound linebacker; any blow to any part of the body, given the right sort of impact and angle of force, may be enough to trigger a Traumatic Brain Injury (“TBI”).
Traumatic Brain Injuries occur when a sudden trauma causes damage to the brain. TBI can result when an object pierces the skull and enters brain tissue, or when the head suddenly and violently hits an object. In the short-term, moderate and severe TBIs can cause seizures, pupil dilation, slurred speech, weakness, loss of coordination, and increased confusion, restlessness, and agitation. In some instances, bleeding can occur inside the skull, causing a pool of blood to effectively squeeze brain tissue already naturally crammed tight inside the cranium.
A Concussion is a form of TBI caused by a bump, blow, or jolt that can change the way your brain normally works. Concussions can also occur from a blow to the body that causes the head and brain to move quickly back and forth. In effect, brain tissue sloshes from one side of the skull to another, with accompanying strain and a stretching and damaging of brain cells. Additionally, the tissue damage (not visible to a casual observer) causes chemical changes within the various lobes of the brain. These chemical changes are just as significant as actual tissue damage, if not more. Again, a Concussion can occur with or without a direct blow to the head; all that is needed is enough force to cause the head to rapidly move back and forth.
Health care professionals describe a concussion as a “mild” TBI. Even so, the effects can be serious. Symptoms of a Concussion may include a brief loss of consciousness, headache, confusion, lightheadedness, dizziness, blurred vision, ringing in the ears, lethargy, a change in sleep patterns, behavioral or mood changes, and trouble with memory, concentration, attention, and thinking. The neurochemicals released as part of the brain’s healing process render the sufferer more susceptible to daily stress as well. Certain personality problems are often worsened by the trauma. This constellation of symptoms associated with Concussions is called Post-Concussive Syndrome, and can be permanent, or can improve after several months or years.
Family members may look at the sufferer as difficult to endure, and his or her short-term mental problems may be dismissed as hypochondriacal, whining or faking. But often, such difficulties and complaints are part of the Post-Concussion Condition. Also, the very fact that medical providers and family members do not take the sufferers’ complaints seriously also adds to depression, anger, and a sense of helplessness. But treatment delayed is treatment denied.
Thankfully, it is often possible to get better from a Concussion. Rest is very important after a concussion because the brain is healing. As sufferers re-start normal daily activities, symptoms such as deficits in processing information, difficulties in learning new material, slowed reaction times and poor concentration make things difficult. It may be best to return to work gradually, and to avoid activities that are physically demanding or require a lot of concentration.
The symptoms of a Concussion are subtle, and the tissue strain and chemical changes are not always obvious, even on a CT scan. As a result, insurance companies will often deny valid claims for compensation for this sort of TBI. If you suspect you had a Concussion, it is vitally important to a) get medical care, and b) get proper legal counsel, who know the value and effect of even so-called “mild” TBIs. At Emroch & Kilduff, this is exactly what we do; we help victims of Traumatic Brain Injury, and we are well-versed in the short-term and long-term effects of Concussions that the insurance company wrongly considers insignificant.