As you read this blog post, please keep in mind that I’m not a doctor; I want to get that out there first and foremost. No, I’m not here to diagnose a brain injury; I’m not here to treat a brain injury. In fact, I’m a personal injury attorney in New Orleans, Louisiana.
I’ve been litigating these types of cases for over a decade and by doing that I’ve developed lots of resources that have been available to my clients through litigation that I thought would be helpful and useful for everyone.
What Is a Brain Injury, Exactly?
First of all, a brain injury is a disruption of the normal brain function. It doesn’t mean you have to be in a wheelchair or not able to comprehend certain things or be able to understand what you read, it just means that there are certain areas of your cognition or your brain function and its ability to work right that is impaired because of damage that has occurred. Most often, it occurs as a result of trauma.
Misdiagnosis During Emergency Room Visits
A recent study was done where a group of nearly 2,000 people that had brain injuries, their medical records were collected and their emergency room visits were examined. And it turns out that the screening showed that they had perfectly normal brain function.
The reason for that is because emergency room doctors, they’re simply there to make sure you’re not going to die that day, that you don’t have any internal bleeding or broken bones, and these screenings that they’re doing, they’re not a full neurological screening.
It’s an emergency room doctor’s screening. So it’s very cursory and many times very inaccurate.
Multiple Types of Brain Injuries
The other thing is that people have a lot of misconceptions about what a brain injury is and what causes them, so I wanted to kind of introduce you to the fact that there are multiple types of brain injuries. Most often it’s a mild brain injury.
These are things like concussions and things that happen in everyday life, whether you fall, you’re in a car accident, you have — your son or daughter is involved in sports. It can happen very easily, but it is a brain injury and there are permanent effects from this that can alter the brain function.
It’s very important that even in a mild brain injury scenario you want to be very vigilant if you are a parent or a significant other to watch the habits and behaviors of the affected person to determine whether or not they are having memory problems, comprehension problems, even if they have personality changes, those are usually big signs and symptoms of a potential brain injury.
Of course, the next worst one would be a moderate, and that’s just, you know slightly worse than mild but not as bad as severe. Then you have the severe ones which are the ones where people would be unable to learn new things at all, not comprehend what they’ve learned the previous day, not care for themselves; the kind you generally think about when you think of a brain injury.
Uncovering Myths About Brain Injuries
It’s important that you make yourself familiar with some myths about brain injury. The biggest one is that you have to hit your head. That’s just simply not true. A great example of that would be a whiplash-type accident where your head accelerates and then decelerates, whether it’s a car accident, or you fall off a bike, or whatever.
When your head whips back and forth, what happens is the brain smacks the inside of the skull and that kind of trauma can cause the axons — which are kind of like the telephone wires and you of your brain and they carry information from one area to the other — those can either become twisted or even broken and then that information ceases to go back and forth.
It’s important to identify the area because with the additional knowledge we now have about the brain and that these doctors are really researching heavily now, they can determine that the area of the brain is responsible for certain cognition or learning or memory or daily functions. It’s very important to have those diagnostic tools at your hand — in your hands — to be able to identify exactly what area of the brain has been adversely affected.
The second largest myth is that you have to lose consciousness in order to sustain a brain injury. The best example I could think of was a few years ago, the actor Liam Neeson, his wife Natasha Richardson, was skiing on a bunny slope; the little bitty ones that you kind of, you know, you train on with your children and things.
She just she fell; she didn’t strike her head, she didn’t lose consciousness. They asked her if she was okay, she said she was fine. The next day, she died. When they examined her body, they determined that she did indeed have a brain injury.