Jason Stephens | March 17, 2021 | Brain Injuries
A traumatic brain injury (TBI) can result from almost any kind of accident. The whipping motion during a car accident could give you a headache that lasts for a few days. A simple slip and fall could leave you seeing stars. Or, you might not remember how you got a bump on the head from a workplace accident.
All of these symptoms could signify the presence of a mild traumatic brain injury. But a mild TBI can still produce long-term effects.
Here are some of the long-term effects of a mild traumatic brain injury, along with an overview of how they might impact an injury claim in Texas.
How Traumatic Brain Injuries Occur
A TBI happens when head trauma causes brain cells to die or deteriorate. A few of the most common kinds of brain injuries that can result from head trauma include:
When your head strikes an object or vice versa, your brain can slam into the inside of your skull. The impact point can bleed and swell like a bruise.
A head impact might not cause a contusion, but your brain might still shift inside your skull. As it moves around, it compresses the fluid that normally cushions the brain from impacts. The pressure of the fluid on the brain can cause widespread bruising and swelling. Concussions usually produce milder symptoms than a contusion.
Diffuse Axonal Injury (DAI)
The brain includes long nerve cells called axons. When the head experiences a back-and-forth whipping motion, the axons can tear. The torn axons can no longer transmit nerve signals. Common examples of DAIs include whiplash, coup-contrecoup injuries, and shaken baby syndrome.
When an object penetrates the skull, the object can destroy brain cells and cause bleeding in the brain. The same effects can also happen when the skull is fractured and pieces of the skull penetrate the brain.
Explosions create shock waves of pressurized air. The shock wave causes rapid pressure changes in the fluid surrounding the brain. The pressure on the brain can produce bleeding and swelling.
Effects of Traumatic Brain Injuries on Brain Tissue
Brain cells die when they do not receive oxygen. Some of the ways in which TBIs can damage or kill brain cells include:
When the blood vessels feeding the brain rupture, the blood cells that carry oxygen to the brain cannot reach their destination. These brain cells suffocate and die.
As the brain swells, the skull and fluid surrounding the brain can put pressure on the brain. Pressure on the brain can compress the blood vessels that carry blood to the brain. The lack of blood circulation can cause widespread damage to the brain.
Brain cells can tear when an object penetrates the brain or forces are transmitted onto the brain. Blood vessels can also tear, starving the brain of blood.
As the brain sustains damage, the body’s immune and repair response can cause inflammation. Inflammation can lead to swelling, which can damage brain cells.
Rating the Severity of TBIs
Doctors and EMTs typically use the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) to rate a TBI’s severity. You may have seen the GCS in action if you have ever watched a team doctor interact with a player after a head injury during a sporting event.
The GCS uses three tests to be able to rate a traumatic brain injury as being mild, moderate, or severe. The three tests used by the GCS are eye opening, verbal response, motor response. Each test assigns a point value to the individual’s response to the tests.
The doctor adds the scores from the individual tests to calculate the GCS score. A GCS score of 13-15 means that there is a mild TBI. A moderate TBI produces a GCS score of 9-12. A score of 8 or lower signifies a severe TBI.
If the injured person opens their eyes spontaneously, the eye opening score assigned is four. Lower scores are given if the eyes open in response to sound (3) or pressure (2), while if they do not open at all, a score of 1 would be given.
If the injured person gives an orientated verbal response to questions like, “Where are you?” or “What is your name?” the verbal response score is five. Confusion (4), incoherent words (3), non-verbal sounds (2), or a lack of response (1) all receive lower scores.
If the injured person can move in response to a command like, “Can you lift your arms?” the motor response score given is six. Lesser motor responses earn lower scores.
Immediate Symptoms of Mild TBIs
Since a mild traumatic brain injury produces a GCS score within two points of normal, it usually means that the patient experienced only brief unconsciousness (at most), little or no confusion, and little or no loss of motor skills.
Immediately after a mild TBI, you could experience a range of symptoms such as:
- Nausea or spinning sensation
- Lightheaded feeling
- Ringing in the ears
- Blurry vision
- Loss of balance
- Loss of coordination
- Mild memory loss
Symptoms here are not measured in the GCS score. These could range from mild to severe after a mild TBI.
Long-Term Effects of Mild TBIs
Contrary to popular belief, scientists now say that brain cells can regrow. These regrown brain cells can restore functionality to the brain, but the process takes time.
As the brain recovers, some symptoms may persist or emerge, including:
- Behavioral changes
- Difficulty speaking
- Sleep disorders, including fatigue or insomnia
- Memory loss
- Difficulty concentrating
- Problems processing information
- Persistent headaches
- Muscle weakness or numbness
These long-term effects might range from mild to severe.
Injury Claims After a Mild TBI
When you and your lawyer file an injury claim against the person or business that caused your injury, your doctor will probably provide an opinion about your prognosis. The accuracy of the prognosis can have a dramatic effect on your injury claim.
If you’re diagnosed with a TBI with long-term effects, it will likely increase the amount of compensation that you would receive in your case. The greater the injury, the more profound impact it has on your life. Generally, you will have greater medical expenses, require more treatment, miss more work, and suffer longer-lasting pain and mental anguish when your effects are long-term.
Texas law does not impose any caps on economic or non-economic damages, except in medical malpractice claims. As a result, you and your lawyer can argue for fair compensation for your long-term TBI symptoms without the fear of hitting a cap for damages unless it involves medical malpractice.