A concussion is a mild brain injury that, although rarely a cause of death, can still produce symptoms that are anything but mild. Concussion injuries can cause confusion, amnesia, and other conditions that can temporarily disable you from working or caring for yourself.
Fortunately, the symptoms brought on by most concussions are only temporary, dissipating on their own within a couple of months. However, in rare situations, a concussion can cause physical, cognitive, and emotional issues for months or even years after the original injury. Worse yet, repeated concussions can cause degenerative brain diseases.
What is the Brain’s Anatomy?
Your brain controls your nervous system, sending signals to your organs and muscles to operate them and receiving signals from your sense organs that inform it about your surroundings. These two functions create a feedback loop where your brain uses your senses to adjust your bodily functions.
When your skin feels heat and humidity, for instance, your brain triggers a sweating response. You do not need to make a conscious decision to sweat, of course: Your brain just makes it happen.
Conversely, your brain allows your body to react after a conscious decision. For example, when you see a loose dog on the sidewalk, you might make a conscious decision to cross the street to avoid a painful dog bite. Your brain will control your legs to get you away from the potential threat.
As you cannot function without a healthy brain, your body has several layers of protection for it. For instance, the brain sits inside the cranial cavity, with the skull’s walls protecting it from impacts akin to a shell.
Going deeper inside the skull are the three meninges, protective tissues surrounding the brain and spinal cord and protecting them from microorganisms like bacteria and viruses. The meninges contain cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which circulates through the meninges, the pressure and flow rate of which is controlled by valves.
The CSF provides a final layer of protection for your brain, given its viscous consistency. As a result, when your brain moves inside your skull, the CSF acts as a cushion, preventing the brain from slamming into the side of the skull.
How Do Concussions Happen?
Newton’s third law of motion states that “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction,” and it is that exact law of physics that explains how concussions work.
When your head changes directions quickly, your brain briefly continues moving in your original direction, causing it to push against the CSF. The CSF pushes back, cushioning the brain’s impact and slowing it down.
The pressure of the CSF on your brain will prevent it from slamming into the inside of your skull. However, it can also damage or destroy brain cells, and in response to the tissue damage, your brain swells. It is the combination of brain damage and swelling that causes the characteristic symptoms of a concussion injury.
In a head-on car collision, for instance, your head and brain whip forward until you’re restrained by your seat belt, which stops the movement of your body. Your head, however, keeps moving forward until your neck pulls it to a stop, the physical stress of which causes whiplash.
Even after your head stops, though, your brain keeps sloshing forward, and though the pressure of the CSF will save your life, it will likely cause a concussion in the process.
Determining a Concussion Injury’s Severity
The symptoms you experience with a concussion will depend on many factors, including the severity of your injury. Doctors rate the severity of a concussion using the Glasgow Coma Scale, which is based on your responses to three types of stimuli:
How and when you open your eyes after your injury factors into the severity of your brain injury. If you lost consciousness and could not open your eyes, even briefly, you had a severe concussion. If you opened them only in response to sound or touch, you had a moderate concussion. If you opened your eyes spontaneously after your injury, that indicates a minor concussion.
Your movement after an injury can also inform doctors and first responders about the severity of your concussion.
Flexion happens when you contract a muscle, and extension occurs when you relax a muscle. A severe concussion impairs both of these processes. If the injury impaired one but not the other, you have a moderate concussion. If you can move normally, you only have a minor concussion.
A medical provider will ask you questions such as:
- What is your name?
- What happened to you?
- Do you know where you are?
- What day is it?
Your responses will help the provider assess your concussion severity. If you cannot respond or only respond with sounds, you have a severe concussion. After a moderate concussion, you will respond with words but provide incoherent answers, and a mild concussion will still allow you to produce coherent responses.
What Are the Common Symptoms of a Concussion?
Concussions can cause physical, mental, and emotional concerns.
Some common concussion symptoms include the following:
- Loss of consciousness
- Slurred speech
- Ringing ears
- Seeing stars or blurry vision
- Confusion and brain fog
- Memory loss
Since concussion symptoms result from brain damage and swelling, your symptoms may evolve for hours or even days after your initial injury. Symptoms you experienced in the immediate aftermath of your concussion might disappear, while other symptoms might appear for the first time, improving or worsening unpredictably.
Concussion symptoms usually clear up in less than two months, but patients can occasionally experience post-concussion syndrome (PCS), in which symptoms persist for far longer. Doctors cannot predict who will develop PCS, but research suggests a link between PCS and post-traumatic stress disorder.
How Can You Get Compensation for a Concussion Injury?
If you suffered a concussion due to someone else’s actions, you may have a personal injury claim to leverage against the at-fault party. The damages you can recover in an injury case include your economic losses, such as medical costs and lost income, as well as non-economic losses, like pain and suffering.
Though most concussions only last a few months, you could still suffer tremendous losses. The headaches, brain fog, and amnesia commonly experienced after a concussion can prevent you from working or performing necessary tasks like driving or shopping while you recover. Call Anderson Injury Lawyers at (817) 294-1900 for a free consultation to discuss your concussion injury and the financial compensation you can pursue under Texas law.