The Hidden Injury: Impact of Undetected Traumatic Brain Injuries

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Key Points:

  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is known as the silent epidemic because the effects cannot be readily seen, and it may be difficult to diagnose.
  • TBI can be caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head, or a penetrating head injury, that disrupts the normal function of the brain.
  • A doctor’s examination is recommended any time someone suffers a head injury.

They call traumatic brain injury, or TBI, the silent epidemic because the effects of a brain injury cannot be readily seen and may be difficult to diagnose. As many as 85% of mild traumatic brain injuries – concussions – are undetected even by MRIs.

Because of the difficulties in recognizing a TBI, a brain injury can go un-diagnosed, particularly if the symptoms are mild. This is time in which the injured individual does not receive needed medical treatment, and unseen damage to blood vessels could lead to blood clots and a stroke, or other problems.

The Brain Injury Association (BIA) of Georgia says TBI can happen anytime, anywhere to anyone, and that every year 1.7 million people in the U.S. suffer a brain injury. In Georgia alone, according to the BIA of Georgia, about 150,000 people are living with permanent disabilities caused by brain injuries. Each year, approximately 50,000 Georgians suffer brain injuries, with more than 3,000 of these injuries expected to result in permanent disabilities.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention, which is in Atlanta, says that in 2010, 2.5 million TBIs occurred either as an isolated injury or along with other injuries. Further, 138 people in the United States die from injuries that include TBI every day, according to the CDC, which means TBI contributes to about 30% of all injury deaths.

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The TBI is an injury caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head, or a penetrating head injury, that disrupts the normal function of the brain. A TBI may cause a brief change in mental status or consciousness or be more severe and result in an extended period of unconsciousness or memory loss. Most TBIs are mild and are commonly known as concussions.

In most cases, a concussion only requires rest and over-the-counter pain relievers to treat the accompanying headache, and the injured person recovers in several days or weeks. But the Mayo Clinic explains that an individual with a mild traumatic brain injury requires monitoring closely for any new or worsening symptoms

An initial doctor’s examination is a must any time someone suffers a head injury, but some people who have a TBI do not see a doctor. There are several reasons a head injury is ignored that may in fact be a mild or moderate brain injury.

One reason some head injuries go untreated is ignorance of the potential effect of a TBI. This has become less of an issue thanks to coverage of concussions among NFL players and other athletes, and traumatic brain injuries among members of the military.

Caution about concussions in sports has spread to school and youth sports, including the Georgia High School Association, which calls for coaches, players, officials and administrators to be alert for signs of concussion in all athletes.

According to the Youth Sports Safety Alliance, 163,670 young athletes were seen in emergency rooms for concussions in 2012. This means every three minutes a child is seen in an emergency room for a sports-related concussion.

The Alliance says female athletes are more likely to report concussions than boys in sports, which points out another problem in TBI cases. Many boys and young men are still taught to not be hurt or to shake it off when they are hurt, and this can be extremely dangerous in cases of head injury.

Meanwhile, despite the terrible damage a TBI can do, only 20% of persons with brain injury are able to get rehabilitation and other services needed to aid recovery because of high costs, insurance gaps, widespread lack of knowledge about brain injury, and shortage of services, the BIA of Georgia says.

The catastrophic injury attorneys of The Millar Law Firm in Atlanta help Georgians who have suffered from TBI, in car accidents or other accidents, obtain compensation when they have been injured because of others’ negligence. If you have been diagnosed with a TBI, contact The Millar Law Firm for a free meeting to discuss the legal options that may be open to you.

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