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Personal Injury: Traumatic Brain Injury in Utah–14 Symptoms

With the injury and death of Natasha Richardson from an injury to her brain after striking her head in a ski accident it behooves all of us here in Utah to learn the symptoms of closed head injury so that we may be alert to their presence in a friend or loved one after an accident. Brain injury can occur from a minor impact to the skull. It can also happen without impact to the skull. This latter is known as a contrecoup concussion. Rapid movement of the head forward and backward can cause the brain to move forcibly against the front of the skull causing injury to the delicate organ. SYMPTOMS Some of the common symptoms of a brain injury are as follows: 1. Vomiting–if you observe someone throwing up after an accident get them to a doctor right away. 2. Unconsciousness–a reduced state of consciousness is often caused by a head injury. Doctors have developed the Glasgow coma scale to gauge the severity of loss of consciousness: “The system involves three responses: eye opening, verbal response and muscle response. These responses are graded in range from mild to severe loss of consciousness. For example, the five grades of verbal response range from correctly answering the questions ‘Who are you? Where are you? What day and month is it?’ (Mild) to not responding at all…. (Severe)” From the Mosby Medical Encyclopedia. Other symptoms of a brain injury include: 3. Headaches 4. Fatigue 5. Dizziness 6. Blurred vision 7. Trouble concentrating 8. Bothered by noise 9. Bothered by noise 10. Irritability, lack of patience 11. Loss of temper easily 12. Memory difficulty 13. Anxiety 14. Insomnia There is a way to use these last 12 to ascertain the presence of brain trauma. First check those that apply after an accident. Next, answer honestly whether any were present before the accident. For example, I sometimes get irritable when I’m hungry. Is that evidence of head injury? Obviously not. Once you have determined that a symptom is present after an accident but also before the accident ask yourself “is it the same? or is it worse?” Worsening of a pre-existing symptom may be evidence of a head injury. You then total up the number of symptoms that were not present before the accident or, if present, were worse following. The greater the number of symptoms, the greater the likelihood of a head injury. Discuss the results with your primary doctor and, if he deems it appropriate, get a referral to a neuropsychologist who can interview you and, as necessary perform a battery of tests to objectify the injury and its effects on your cognitive functioning. Note: Credit for the development of this list goes to Sureyya Dikmen, PH.D. and the work he performed for his research project: “Behavioral Outcome in Head Injury.” Conclusion Brain injury is a common result from many types of accident. It can vary widely in manifestations. Car accidents with their “whiplash” type influence on passengers can produce a contrecoup concussion where there is no visible damage to the skull. Brain injuries can have devastating impact on the lives of their victims. If you have any of the telltale signs of a brain injury be sure to get checked out by a physician with skill and experience in dealing with these symptoms.

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