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The words traumatic brain injury invoke images of emergency rooms, horrific car crashes, and bleeding wounds. But sometimes, even small bumps can cause serious brain injuries that change the way you live your life.
A traumatic brain injury can be life-changing. It can cause problems with everything from smell and taste to concentration and memory. TBI can be caused by falls, car accidents, and sports, but you don’t have to take a major hit to cause injury. Sometimes a small bump can have a big effect.
Researcher Brian Arling of Sibley Memorial Hospital understands traumatic brain injury intimately. He has one. He told NPR about a back spasm that turned out to be far more:
“It’s a pain I’ve had before,” says Arling, who has battled back problems for years. “But it was more intense than I’ve ever had it before.”
He took painkillers and went back to work. Weeks went by, and his back was still hurting him.
“Then I began noticing that I was shuffling. I was so weak I couldn’t carry my plate out to the back deck. I would just drop things. And everybody commented on how I seemed different,” he says.
And gradually, Arling says, his thinking seemed different, too.
“I could make sense of things, I could get things done, I could make decisions,” he says. “But I was slower at what I did.”
An MRI revealed a large pool of blood building up under the upper right part of his skull. The blood was pushing on his brain, shifting it from right to left.
As the hospital staff began to prepare for surgery, they kept asking about his fall. He hadn’t fallen. He had hit his head on the eaves of his attic when the back spasm struck. Since there hadn’t been any blood, Arling forgot about it. But that small bump had caused an acute subdural hematomas – bleeding in the brain – that could have easily been fatal.
Subdural hematoma can be caused by anything from a minor head injury to severe trauma. An impact causes the veins surrounding the brain to stretch and break, resulting in internal bleeding, which puts pressure on the brain and causes traumatic brain injury symptoms.
Because such serious injuries can be caused by such small bumps, it is essential that first responders and emergency room personnel be on guard for signs of concussion. Even in minor car accidents, concussion symptoms can be a clue to the real danger happening below the surface of the skull. TBI is treatable. But the longer the patient goes without a diagnosis, the more likely that small bump could have a permanent affect on his or her everyday life.
David Christensen is a brain injury expert at Christensen Law in Southfield, Michigan. He represents TBI patients against auto insurance companies after car accidents to make sure their medical expenses are covered. If you know someone who has suffered a brain injury, contact Christensen Law today to schedule a free consultation.