Concussions have gotten a lot of press recently because of the publicity surrounding concussions suffered by players in the National Football League. It has been shown that the forces involved with blocking and tackling on the football field can cause players to have numerous concussions during the course of their careers. What about car accidents? Can they also cause concussions? In many cases, they clearly can and do.
Medical doctors that are specialists in the field tell us that a concussion is caused when the brain is jarred or shaken inside the skull. The brain floats in a cushion of fluid which serves to protect it from injury. However, when the head is shaken violently, as it can be during an auto accident, the brain literally bounces back and forth inside the skull. If the shaking is severe enough, the fluid cushion is not enough to protect the brain and bruising occurs from the brain actually striking the interior of the skull.
The bruising can be significant enough to show up on imaging studies or it can involve only microscopic damage to the brain tissues that cannot be detected by imaging. In either case, injury to the brain occurs. That is called a concussion.
The most common symptom of a concussion is the loss of consciousness. That can involve a person being totally non-responsive for a period of time, or it can involve just an altered state of consciousness, where a person is not fully aware of what is going on around them for a few moments. Either situation can indicate a brain injury. The longer the period of unconsciousness, the greater the injury.
Often, the person who suffered the injury is not the best person to ask whether they were unconscious. By definition, being unconscious means you are not fully aware of what is going on around you, and when you regain consciousness, you may not remember what just happened. This is important in the context of a legal action arising out of the accident. When the paramedics arrive at the scene, they will ask an injured person if they were unconscious. Often, the person will say no, since they don’t remember being unconsciousness. That will be noted in the paramedic’s report.
Later, when a claim is made against the insurance company for the person who caused the accident, the insurance company attorney will argue that there was no concussion because the injured person didn’t complain of being unconscious! That is why it is important to interview all witnesses to the accident and anyone that may have come on the scene after it occurred, since they may have observed that the injured person was, in fact, unconscious.
There are other symptoms of a concussion as well, some of which don’t always show up right away. They include headaches, dizziness, memory lapses, sensitivity to light and nausea. In more serious cases, mental functioning can be altered and even seizures can result.
Symptoms of a concussion may go away after only a few hours or days. However, in some cases, symptoms can be long-lasting, even for a lifetime.
If you are involved in any serious auto accident, it is important to get checked out by a qualified medical practitioner as soon as possible. If you have suffered a concussion, appropriate medical treatment can make a big difference in having a successful recovery.