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March is Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Month

March 2, 2010 by Steven M. Gursten

TBI Lawyer gives brain injury prevention tips, so Michigan drivers can protect themselves from the “silent epidemic”

There are 1.4 million people across the country who sustain a traumatic brain injury every year.

About 50,000 people die from brain injury.

Another 235,000 are hospitalized annually.

And 1.1 million people are treated and released from hospital emergency rooms.

These statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are startling, and show how pervasive this “silent epidemic” can be. But what the CDC cannot count is the number of people with TBI who are not seen in an emergency room, or who receive no care.

One of the main reasons for this is because emergency rooms miss up to 85 percent of brain injuries after a person has been in a car accident. Our brain injury lawyers have witnessed accident cases where a catastrophically brain-injured person literally walked away after a car crash, without even an ambulance or ER visit, only to become permanently disabled with a serious traumatic brain injury.

And as lawyers handling brain injury cases, we certainly believe it’s important to stress the fact that ERs frequently miss the diagnosis of brain injuries. March is Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Month. Since motor vehicle accidents (primarily car accidents and truck accidents) are the leading cause of TBI, we’d like to offer some important prevention tips.

Protect Yourself from Brain Injury

1. Motorcycle helmets provide protection for motorcycle drivers for all types of closed-head injuries, and, contrary to urban myth, are not associated with increased neck injuries.

2. As many as 85 percent of bicycle-related head injuries could be prevented if bike riders were to wear protective helmets. An average of 140,000 head injuries per year are attributed to children and adolescents in bicycle accidents. (Our lawyers play an active role in the Michigan Association for Justice bike helmet give-away held several times a year, and have donated thousands of dollars to help prevent child brain injuries.)

3. Air bags have been associated with a substantial reduction of fatalities in car accidents involving adults. However, children younger than 10 (seated in the front seat) had a 34 percent increased risk of dying in frontal crashes in cars equipped with dual airbags.

4. A study reports side air bags, which include head protection, can decrease deaths from side-impact crashes up to 45 percent. The majority of deaths in a side collision are a result of head injuries.

(Sources: 1. Journal of Trauma, 38(2): 242-245; 2. New England Journal of Medicine, 320: 1361-1367; 3. Journal of the American Medical Association, 298(17): 1437-1439; Insurance Institute of Highway Safety)

You can also check out the Brain Injury Association of America website.

Common Symptoms of TBI

Another way to protect yourself against traumatic brain injury is to be aware of the symptoms. Sadly, many doctors miss them while focusing only on the acute injuries, and it’s not uncommon for months to pass before a brain injury is formally diagnosed.

Early TBI is often not detected by traditional MRI or CT scans because the brain actually goes into a hyper-metabolic state as it tries to protect itself after a trauma. There is an uptake of glucose that masks many of the symptoms. But symptoms often worsen over time, causing further injury and brain damage.

Remember the tragedy of Natasha Richardson last year. She fell on a bunny hill while skiing, and then resumed skiing only to succumb to a fatal brain injury. This demonstrated a person can suffer a traumatic brain injury serious enough to kill, and yet function very well for hours and sometimes days afterward.

Here is a list of common TBI symptoms.

* Chronic headaches or neck pain;
* Feeling exhausted all the time;
* Mood changes;
* Changes in sleep patterns;
* Light-headedness, dizziness or loss of balance;
* Nausea;
* Increased sensitivity to lights and sounds;
* Blurred vision or tired eyes;
* Loss of sense of smell or taste; and
* Ringing in the ears, called tinnitus.

* Difficulty remembering, concentrating or making decisions;
* Slowness in thinking, speaking, acting or reading;
* Getting lost or easily confused;
* Difficulty focusing;
* Depression; and
* Anxiety.

Please visit the TBI section in my web site for a more detailed account of traumatic brain injury symptoms.

On Thursday, I will resume my series of blogs on the top Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations trucking lawyers must know

– Photo courtesy of Creative Commons, by mikebaird

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