The brain is an amazing organ. It’s also amazingly fragile. Even a minor knock can throw off its chemistry.
So if you’re caught in a motorcycle accident, the long-term consequences can affect you for the rest of your life. And only a doctor can tell you the full extent of the damage–and how to recover.
That’s why it’s vital to catch a traumatic brain injury early by consulting a physician as soon as you see any sign that something is wrong. Here are some of the common short-term and long-term effects of a TBI that you should take to your physician immediately.
The short-term effects of a traumatic brain injury may seem minor at first. Many people don’t think to get their head checked if they don’t have an open wound.
But the truth is that, like anywhere else in the body, the brain can be seriously injured even if you have a minor wound or no wound at all. If you’ve been involved in an accident and hit your head, it’s vital to get your head checked by a doctor immediately.
And if you go home and start seeing any of the short-term symptoms of a traumatic brain injury, you need to go back to the doctor right away.
Immediately following an accident, you may notice a couple marked physical effects.
The most common physical effect is a headache and temporary loss of consciousness, especially if the accident was more severe.
Don’t disregard a headache as normal. On one hand, it is normal–you’ve just been hit in the head, of course, your head is going to hurt. On the other hand, it may be a sign of far greater internal trauma. You won’t know until a doctor takes a look.
Another common physical symptom is a persistent ringing in the ears without any apparent physical cause (tinnitus). This can also come in the form of buzzing, whistling, chirping, humming, or any other tone. It may be continuous or intermittent and may vary in volume.
It’s often worse when background noise is low, simply because it’s easier to pick up the tone over other sounds. So you may not notice it until you’re in a quiet room. If you do develop tinnitus and have no prior history of tinnitus, or the tinnitus persists past your headache, that may be a sign of a deeper problem.
Similarly, tell your doctor if you have blurred vision, especially if it doesn’t get better. You may also experience nausea and vomiting. This could be the result of strain as you try to focus your eyesight, but it can also occur on its own.
It’s also possible that you won’t see any severe effects right away. If you or a loved one has recently been in an accident, watch out for nonverbal cues that something is wrong.
For example, if you or a loved one is inexplicably listless, dazed, or easily tired, these may be signs of a deeper problem. Unsteady walking and balance problems should also be cause for concern and your doctor should administer further tests to figure out the root of the issue.
The trouble with brain injuries is that the brain isn’t like the heart or lungs. The heart fulfills one function: it moves blood through the body.
But the brain is different. The brain is involved in unconscious physical functions, like breathing, but it also drives our emotional life. So when the brain is injured, your psychological landscape may be altered as well.
Just take a look at Phineas Gage, the most famous brain injury survivor in the history of neuroscience. Before his accident, he was a mild-mannered man and a model employee. After his accident, he was an entirely different man–he couldn’t stick to plans, became irate, negligent, and impressively profane.
You may not have as marked a change as Gage, but you may notice psychological changes after an injury. Mood swings are common, as is excessive crying, inexplicable irritability or a shorter temper, and increased aggression. Psychological changes don’t get the attention afforded to physical injuries, but they’re just as worthy of a doctor’s visit.
Sometimes, the effects of a traumatic brain injury aren’t obvious in the hours or days immediately following the accident.
Some people don’t see the impact for months. Some people don’t see the long-term effects of traumatic brain injuries until many years later (usually documented in professional athletes).
The exact long-term effects vary widely between patients, depending on the severity of the injury, where the brain was injured, and on the patient themselves. Here are a few commonly-documented symptoms to watch for (and mention to your doctor).
The physical side effects of a traumatic brain injury may become more severe over time, depending on how serious the injury was and the relative success of recovery.
For example, a common complaint is loss of stamina (wearing out easily), which may persist if you experienced it immediately after the accident. On the flipside, many patients report disruptions to their sleeping patterns (sleeping too much, sleeping too little, difficulting getting asleep or staying asleep).
Some patients experience more severe (and frightening) effects, such as seizures, partial or total loss of vision, difficulty judging distances, decrease or loss of hearing, and increased sensitivity to light and sound.
Other patients experience sensory problems, such as a difficulty distinguishing between everyday objects like coins, difficulty distinguishing movement, or difficulty integrating information collected by their senses into a complete picture.
Any of these problems is worth visiting a doctor, as they can help mitigate the symptoms and help reduce their effects on your life.
Similar to physical effects, the long-term psychological effects of a traumatic brain injury are insidious and pervasive. You may not even attribute the problems to the brain injury right away.
Nonetheless, like the long-term physical consequences, the long-term psychological consequences of a TBI can have a critical impact on your quality of life.
For example, the long-term prevalence of psychological disorders following a traumatic brain injury is high. These include:
In fact, those with traumatic brain injuries are four times more likely to develop psychiatric disorders than their uninjured counterparts.
They also have an elevated risk of suicide–those with mild concussions had a suicide risk elevated by 81%. Individuals with severe TBIs have a suicide risk almost double that of their healthy counterparts.
If you or a loved one show any signs of developing psychological disorders after a brain injury, you need to visit a doctor immediately. If a loved one shows signs of suicidal behavior, this is a sign of deep distress and should not be ignored.
If someone is an immediate suicide risk, seek help from a trained professional as quickly as possible and do not leave them alone. Call 911 and stay until they arrive, or go directly to a hospital if the person allows it. If someone is not an immediate suicide risk, you should still seek help from a doctor as soon as possible. Do not let them out of your sight, but try to be respectful of the person’s feelings and encourage them to communicate with you and with a doctor.
If you recognize yourself or a loved one in these symptoms, you’re facing a long road to recovery. That doesn’t mean you have to spend the rest of your life paying for someone else’s carelessness.
The personal injury attorneys at Giroux Amburn know the unique difficulties faces by motorcyclists, and we know how to overcome them. We recently won $12 million for a client involved in a motorcycle accident resulting in severe orthopedic and brain injuries.
Let us fight for your rights. If you need to speak with an attorney about your options following an accident, click here to set up your free consultation.