Bumps on the head are usually something we write off, and in many cases, rightly so. But if the person sustaining the injury suffers a loss of consciousness or becomes disoriented, even briefly, there may be lingering trauma to the brain. The long-term impacts of concussions are something physicians and researchers are only beginning to understand.
Post-Concussion Syndrome and TBI
During a concussion, the brain is jolted so hard that it comes into contact with the interior of the skull. This leads to swelling, bruising, and in some cases nerve damage in the brain. When a concussion occurs, the patient has actually suffered a mild traumatic brain injury. Any time an outside force causes a disturbance in the brain’s functions, that’s a TBI. If you’ve ever had a concussion, you may have experienced what is usually diagnosed as “post-concussion syndrome.” Headaches and fatigue are some of the most common symptoms, along with dizziness, irritability, and poor concentration. Usually these symptoms last, at most, 10 days; but 15% of people who suffer a concussion have symptoms for a year or more. The severity of the original injury has little to no bearing on how long one person’s symptoms last over another’s. The area of the concussion and whether or not a person had a concussion before makes a difference in how long the symptoms last.
Even when a patient’s post-concussion symptoms have faded, research has shown the return to normal is a slow climb. Canadian neuropsychologist Dr. Maryse Lassonde spent years analyzing the brain chemistry and cognitive abilities of professional athletes who suffered head trauma—like NFL players who had concussions. She found that brain waves are abnormal for years after the brain is injured. These patients don’t necessarily continue to suffer headaches, though they might; the repercussions are more often of a cognitive or psychological nature. Dr. Lassonde learned that concussions, especially severe ones, frequently lead to changes in behavior and attention span, as well as slowed thinking and even problems with math.
While the participants in Dr. Lassonde’s study were all athletes who had sustained severe TBIs, those who have suffered milder TBIs might see similarities in their own recovery. For example, irritability and slow response times can impact anyone’s day-to-day life. For those who suffer only a mild injury, the result from other people around them might be worse; a boss might not accept the excuse after several weeks have passed, or a spouse can’t understand why an injury from months ago continues to make their partner a grouch. In many cases, the TBI goes undiagnosed and the patient will not even understand why such changes have occurred. This can lead to the loss of job or an unintended divorce with no parties involved ever understanding there was an underlying medical reason for the change in the injured’s abilities or attitudes.
Expectations for the Future
Over 4,000 athletes have filed suit against the NFL for failing to protect them adequately from the long-term effects of concussions. This high-profile case will likely set a valuable precedent for cases involving concussions in the future. Additionally, many veterans returning from recent deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq come home with TBIs, which makes Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) even worse (and may even be part of the cause of it).
Have you been injured as a result of medical malpractice? Every Indiana medical malpractice lawyer at Christie Farrell Lee & Bell has experience and can help you explore your options.