Despite continuing advances in automotive safety systems, motor vehicle occupants still suffer traumatic brain injuries (TBI) at an unacceptable rate. Pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists are particularly vulnerable to brain injuries, too many of which lead to loss of life. In general, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 30.5 percent of all injury-related fatalities involve a brain injury.
Alcohol and Speed Often Factors
Traumatic brain injuries are often linked to alcohol use by motorists that cause crashes. It is estimated that approximately half of all TBIs, including those caused by motor vehicle accidents, involve alcohol consumption. Higher speed limits on many freeways and other multi-lane highways may lead to crashes that subject occupants to greater g-forces at impact.
The Silent Epidemic
Brain injuries are far more common in the United States than many people realize. Estimates suggest that a traumatic brain injury occurs approximately four times per minute in America. A general lack of awareness about the prevalence of such brain injuries has led to the use of the term “silent epidemic” in the overall discussion about TBI.
Approximately 52,000 people die every year because of brain injuries, and it is the leading cause of death among those under the age of 45. Statistically, children under the age of four are most vulnerable to brain injuries. The incidence of brain injuries also spikes among those 14-19 years old and those 75 years-of-age and older.
Penetrating vs. Closed-head Injuries
There are two primary kinds of traumatic brain injuries. First, there are penetrating head injuries, such as those from gunshot wounds. Second, there are closed-head injuries, such as those sustained when the victim’s head strikes a windshield in a car accident. With closed-head injuries, there is often brain damage in two areas: at the point of impact and on other side of the brain, the result of the brain moving back and forth within the skull at impact.
Rating Brain Injuries
The Glasgow Coma Scale (GLS) is often used to rate TBI severity. It is often acknowledged as an objective measure of one’s level of consciousness following a traumatic brain injury. It measures verbal response (1 to 5 points), eye opening (1 to 4 points) and motor response (1 to 6 points). Clinicians take the best score a patient achieves in each category, and the scores are added together. Therefore, the minimum score possible is a 3, and the maximum score possible is 15. GLS scores of 13-15 are associated with mild brain injuries, while GLS score of 9-12 are associated with brain injuries of moderate severity. A GLS score of 3-8 suggests a severe brain injury.
Traumatic brain injuries cause a wide variety of physical and cognitive problems, including:
- Difficulty speaking
- Memory loss
- Difficulty moving
- Impairment of attentiveness
- Limits to information processing
- Personality and mood changes
- Loss of sensations like smell or taste
Although many of the million-plus traumatic brain injuries sustained every year are mild concussions, these brain injuries may still have lasting a cognitive impact, especially when they occur repeatedly. Recovery from even mild to moderate concussions is often slow and painful.
Hope Through Ongoing Research
Increasing awareness of the neuroplasticity of the brain gives patients and families additional hope in certain situations. Researchers have found evidence that, under certain circumstances, the human brain may continue to make progress in healing itself for far longer than was initially believed.
Although brain tissue that has died cannot come back, injured brain cells demonstrate remarkable regenerative capabilities in some situations. For example, a team at Tel Aviv University has found that hyperbaric oxygen therapy that infuses cells with higher concentrations of oxygen may spur improvement in brain function in certain brain-injured patients.
If you or a family member suffers a brain injury in a crash, it is possible to review the details of the accident with a Wisconsin brain injury lawyer focused on relevant parts of the law. Our law firm will provide this consultation to you free of charge. To learn more, or to ask your questions, please contact us.