When it comes to brain injury, what you don’t know may harm you

In Colorado, there are approximately 950 deaths, 5,200 hospitalizations, and 27,000 hospital emergency room visits each year related to traumatic brain injury. According to the Brain Injury Alliance of Colorado, a traumatic brain injury (TBI) is defined as a blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the function of the brain. The severity of such an injury may range from “mild,” i.e., a brief change in mental status or consciousness to “severe,” i.e., an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia after the injury. Colorado ranks ninth in the nation for fatalities due to a TBI and 13th in the nation for TBI-related hospitalizations, with males twice as likely to sustain a TBI than females. The top four leadings causes of TBIs are falls, motor vehicle accidents, strikes to the head, and assaults. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 6 million Americans currently have a long-term or lifelong need for help to perform activities of daily living as a result of a TBI.

TBIs can range from concussions, with primary symptoms lasting a few days or weeks, to more serious injuries resulting in death. While the exact terminology can be confusing — the terms concussion and mild TBI are often used interchangeably— if you hit your head hard enough you may experience wide-ranging physical and psychological effects.

“The trauma causes the brain’s wiring to become inefficient,” says Alan Weintraub, medical director of the Brain Injury Program at Denver’s Craig Hospital. “The result is varying levels of disturbed consciousness.”

The Lakewood, Colorado-based National Ski Areas Association reports that TBIs are the leading cause of skiing and snowboarding fatalities. And the numbers are growing. In 2004, 9,308 skiers and snowboarders suffered head injuries they deemed serious enough to visit a doctor. By 2010, that number had jumped to 14,947.

It’s important to recognize signs and symptoms of a TBI early enough to avoid greater injury. The Colorado Department of Education breaks down the symptoms into four main categories:

  1. Physical – describes how a person feels physically and may include such symptoms as headache, neck pain and pressure, blurred vision, dizziness, ringing in the ears, nausea and vomiting, and sensitivity to light and noise.
  2. Cognitive – describes how a person thinks and may include feelings of being in a fog, feeling slowed down, having difficulty remembering or concentrating, slowed speech and being easily confused.
  3. Emotional – describes how a person feels emotionally, such as personality changes, nervousness and anxiety, irritability, sadness, or a lack of motivation.
  4. Sleep/Energy – these symptoms may be fatigue, drowsiness, excess sleep, trouble falling asleep, or even sleeping less than usual.

If you or a loved one suffered a head or brain injury, contact an experienced Colorado personal injury lawyer who can evaluate your case and get you the recovery you deserve.