Yesterday, our blog posted an article about traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and the National Institute of Health’s initiative to start a $10M database for TBI research. Stemming from that article, today we will be covering how TBI’s occur and debunk some myths about TBIs. According to Dr. GlenJohnson, a clinical neuropsychologist, “It is important to note that you do not have to be traveling at a high rate of speed to get a head injury. Nor do you have to hit your head on an object (steering wheel, windshield) to injure the brain. Even at moderate rates of speed, traumatic brain injuries can and do occur.”
In the case of TBI due to a motor vehicle accident, I think it is a common misperception that brain injuries can only occur if you physically hit your head on a part of the car and/or that you must be travelling at a high rate of speed to do any significant damage. Neither one of these things is true; in fact, you can be travelling at a relatively low rate of speed and still significantly damage your brain if you are hit by another car. To put this in perspective: if you are a passenger or driver in a car, going 25 miles an hour, and another car hits you from behind and your body propels forward, the impact from that accident may have a significant effect on your brain. The brain would propel forward into your skull, going from your previous rate of speed, 25mph, to 0mph in a matter of seconds. That impact may significantly damage some of the soft tissue of your brain, leading to lasting problems. Additionally, in this situation, the head did not hit any other part of the car, such as a window or dashboard.
Keeping these things in mind, it is important to monitor your cognitive abilities after being in a car crash. Look for your ability to remember events, procedures and people, as well as pain and stiffness of the neck and back. Additionally, monitor frequency and intensity of any headaches, as well as problems with your 5 senses (hearing, touch, taste, smell, and sight). A persistent or worsening problem in any of these areas may indicate the presence of possible brain trauma and should be look at by a physician.