When you have suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in a car accident, it is often difficult to identify the full impact it will have on your long-term functional recovery. Symptoms and deficits can continue to manifest or evolve for months after the collision or might remain undetected until you attempt to resume work or other activities. Because mild TBIs (often called concussions) can occur without obvious or direct head trauma, and the resulting impairments are often more subtle, they are particularly challenging to diagnose and treat promptly. Without an accurate understanding of the nature and extent of your brain injury impairments, your treatment providers cannot effectively manage your rehabilitation for optimal recovery. Regardless of the severity of the initial injury, the devastating effects of a TBI can be long-lasting or permanent, especially if left untreated. The following outline will help you understand the potential scope of the impairments you could experience after a TBI, so that you can report new or changing symptoms and raise concerns with your treating professionals.
There are three basic categories of TBI – mild, moderate, and severe. These terms describe the original injury and DO NOT correlate to the degree of functional impairment that might result. Whereas moderate and severe TBIs can be identified by objective evidence of direct physical trauma (for example, a skull fracture or obvious head wound), a mild TBI is defined as a closed head injury resulting in a loss of consciousness and/or disorientation (typically lasting less than 30 minutes). It can be accompanied by vomiting. A direct blow to the head is not required – in whiplash cases, for instance, the forceful movement can cause the brain can strike the inside of the victim’s skull. The degree of impairment a victim suffers depends on what area of the brain is injured, how well their body responds to surgery or treatment, pre-existing conditions and vulnerabilities, and other factors.
Until relatively recently, mild TBIs were often dismissed by the medical community and the public at large as minor conditions without permanent consequences. While it is true that the majority of first concussions suffered by injury victims will heal over time, the victims can continue to experience ongoing symptoms for several months beyond expected healing times. As well, a significant percentage (estimated at 10-15%) will develop post-concussion syndrome with persistent physical, cognitive, and/or psychological impairments that resist treatment and can limit the victim’s return to normal activities and work.
When a person suffers a moderate or severe brain injury, their treating professionals have detailed information including diagnostic imaging. They can usually identify the resulting impairments and anticipate any that might develop later in the recovery process. However, even when a mild TBI is diagnosed promptly, the secondary effects and ongoing functional impairments of post-concussion syndrome are hard to predict accurately, and onset of all potential symptoms can take up to a year post-injury. It is important that you and your treating professionals continue to monitor your condition in case further complications and impairments emerge during your recovery.
Long-Term Impairments of Mild TBI Injuries or Concussions
Despite your best efforts to heal and resume your daily life, a host of physical, cognitive, and psychological impairments from your brain injury can permanently interfere with your ability to participate in your former employment, household and everyday tasks and your recreational activities and relationships – regardless of the severity of the initial trauma.
Mild TBI Physical Impairments, Physical, Cognitive, and Psychological
Long-term physical impairments of a mild TBI can include:
- Headaches (including tension headaches, migraines, and neuralgic pain)
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Dizziness/Vestibular disorders
- Sleep disorders (insomnia, nightmares, excessive sleeping)
- Chronic Fatigue
Long-term cognitive impairments can include:
- Poor concentration
- Impaired memory
- Difficulty comprehending and processing language and concepts
- Problems with executive functioning (including planning, abstract thinking, multi-tasking, initiating and completing tasks)
- Cognitive fatigue or “Brain Fog”
Long-term psychological and behavioural impairments can include:
- Emotional lability (mood swings, erratic behaviour, anger, disinhibition)
- Poor impulse control
- Apathy or anhedonia (loss of pleasure in life)
- Post-traumatic stress
- Chronic pain syndrome
Depending on the nature of your injury, you could continue to suffer from many of these impairments, the effects of which can mutually reinforce and perpetuate one another. Often, they have become entrenched resistant to treatment by the time they are diagnosed. Further delays can be caused when your insurer refuses to pay for proposed treatment until you have been assessed by one of their physicians. The longer your symptoms go untreated, the less likely you are to recover fully. Therefore, it is crucial that you document your symptoms with your family physician and other health care providers. Make sure you discuss any potential complications or impairments that might be related to your brain injury, even if weeks or months have passed since the accident.
Although you are allowed to manage your own accident benefits, it can be an overwhelming chore, especially if you have been seriously injured and are experiencing post-concussion symptoms. An exceptional accident benefits team can ensure you receive timely and effective treatment. At Campisi LLP, we interact with your insurance adjuster and fight for your right to treatment, which includes the expense of hiring the right specialists. We help you take charge of your recovery, identifying and arranging the best health care providers and experts. If you have questions about traumatic brain injuries and concussions or your accident benefits generally, we are pleased to offer a free, no-obligation consultation so that you can make informed choices about your recovery.
Campisi LLP – Champions with Heart!
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