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Dale Earnhardt Jr. on his delayed concussion symptoms

November 15, 2012 by Steven M. Gursten

What car accident victims can learn about concussion and the importance of getting medical help quickly

I was really struck by this  press conference  with race car driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr. talking frankly and honestly about his concussion after two race car accidents.

Earnhardt Jr. says that it took nearly two weeks for him to recognize that he was having serious problems from his concussion.  I see this so often, and it serves as a very important lesson for people who are recovering from concussion accidents – whether that be on a high school football playing field or after a car accident.

Earnhardt outlines his experience as follows: He got in an accident, sustained a concussion and then about a week later, he was in another racing accident. He said the second crash wasn’t half of the first impact, but it was enough to cause concern. A couple days following the second accident, he was experiencing headaches and saw a neurosurgeon. The MRI came back normal, but Earnhardt was still prohibited from racing until his concussion resolves.

What an important  lesson for auto accident victims and others who suffer head injuries. Doctors refer to  concussion and brain injury as the “silent epidemic,” because the symptoms of concussion can worsen over time. Many physicians and ER doctors  miss brain injury. In fact, there is published literature that emergency rooms, as acute trauma centers, do not diagnose 85% of traumatic brain injuries.  Silent epidemic is an apt description.

As  in Earnhardt’s case, brain injury can take time to develop, and tests like MRIs often do not detect it even though people can be seriously disabled from its consequences.

The lesson you can take from Earnhardt is that if you feel anything that isn’t right with your head after a car accident, or any accident, or blow to the head in general, no matter how small it may seem, tell your doctor.

Here are FAQs about concussions, and traumatic brain injury symptoms.

The real problem with brain injury and concussion is that – unlike any other medical injury – brain injury is a process, not an event.  People break their arm, and it is an event.  It has happened, and people are immediately aware of it.

But what makes brain injury such a silent epidemic is that brain injury is different. Again, brain injury is a process.  The process of injury can continue to occur due to chemical changes in the brain for days or even weeks after the event.  Here’s the best article I have found to date that explains this process.

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