Millions of concussions happen every year in the U.S. These brain injuries can result from sports, motor vehicle accidents, falls, and other traumatic events. You can even experience a concussion without suffering any head trauma.
Roughly half of all concussions go undiagnosed. But they can produce a variety of physical, cognitive, and emotional symptoms. In some cases, these effects disable accident victims from working or even performing necessary activities like driving or shopping.
The brain controls the nervous system. It sends control signals to your body and receives sensory signals from your skin and other sense organs.
Some of the control signals happen automatically. If you step on a piece of glass, you reflexively pull your foot back without consciously thinking about it. Other control signals happen voluntarily. When stepping over a puddle, you deliberately extend your stride to cross it.
A brain injury can impair your neurological functions. When brain cells get damaged, they can drop signals or misfire. The exact impairment will depend on the location and severity of the injury.
An injury to the back of the brain near the visual cortex might cause vision problems like blurriness or seeing stars. And an injury at the front of the brain might cause confusion.
Your brain has several protective layers to keep it from being injured. The skull surrounds the brain and protects it from impacts. And under your skull, three membranes called meninges surround the brain and spinal cord. The membranes reduce your risk of having bacteria and viruses infect the central nervous system.
The meninges contain cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that surrounds the brain like a cushion to slow its movement. You can imagine that CSF behaves like bubble wrap. When your brain gets jostled, the CSF pushes against it to prevent it from striking the inside of the skull.
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Doctors define a concussion as a mild traumatic brain injury. Concussions are considered to be mild not because the symptoms are mild but simply because very few concussion injuries result in death. In fact, the symptoms of a concussion can have a profound effect on your mental and physical abilities.
A concussion happens when your brain sloshes in the CSF. The viscosity of the CSF is slightly thicker than water, so its fluid pressure and friction against the brain resist movement. Instead of slamming into your skull, the brain slows down as it sloshes through the CSF.
But physics dictates that every force produces an equal and opposite reaction. When the brain pushes through the CSF, the fluid pushes back. The pressure wave in the direction of the brain’s motion can compress and damage brain cells, injuring or killing them.
In response to the damage suffered, the brain tissue experiences inflammation. The brain swells and increases in temperature. These changes in the brain, in turn, produce a range of symptoms characteristic of concussions.
Concussions happen due to two types of trauma:
When your head strikes something, your brain slides toward the impact site. The CSF stops your brain from bruising against the skull, but this protection happens at the cost of mild brain damage due to the CSF’s pressure — leading to a concussion.
Head trauma that leads to a concussion can happen in a fall. For example, in a slip and fall accident, your feet lose traction and slide forward. You then fall back as your center of gravity shifts backward. Since you cannot catch yourself, you fall onto your back and hit your head on the ground.
When this happens, your brain shifts violently toward the back of your skull. That region of your brain then gets compressed by the CSF, causing a concussion.
You do not need to suffer head trauma to experience a concussion. For example, rapid acceleration or deceleration causes your brain to slosh inside your skull.
Some situations where your brain may accelerate or decelerate quickly include the following:
Suppose that you are in a car accident involving a rear-end collision. When a car hits you from behind, your head whips back into your headrest. But since your brain is floating in CSF, it remains in place as your forehead races toward it. The layer of CSF between the brain and the front of your skull presses on the brain, damaging it.
Concussions can produce physical, cognitive, and emotional symptoms such as:
Your symptoms often depend on the severity of your concussion injury.
A severe concussion happens when you:
In a moderate concussion, you may:
When you experience a mild concussion, you will:
In most cases, you will recover from a concussion within two months after your injury. If your symptoms last longer than two months, it’s possible that you have post-concussion syndrome. This complication can develop after someone experiences a traumatic brain injury that causes both a concussion and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
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If your concussion resulted from someone else’s actions, you may be able to pursue personal injury compensation under Texas law. For example, if someone intentionally struck you, you might have an intentional tort claim. And if you were injured due to someone else’s lack of care, you might have a negligence claim.
If you can prove legal liability for your injury, you can be compensated for both your economic and non-economic losses. Economic losses include the financial costs of your injuries, such as lost wages and medical expenses. Non-economic losses include the human costs of your injuries that diminish your quality of life.
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