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Identifying Common Cause of Traumatic Brain Injuries: Whiplash

There are several myths surrounding the ever-expanding field of Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI). One of the most common myths associated with TBI is that they are only caused by a sudden or severe blow to the skull. We see this type of TBI all the time with professional sports athletes, especially in the NFL. Hollywood has also chosen to focus almost solely on this type of TBI as well (think “50 First Dates”, “While You Were Sleeping”, or pretty much any other romantic comedy in which someone suffers a head trauma and a resulting amnesia). This type of TBI is quickly recognized and diagnosed due to the obvious trauma to the victim’s head. However, this is not the only type of TBI.

Another type of TBI is often caused by an injury commonly associated with automobile accidents- whiplash. Whiplash refers to injuries to the cervical spine column due to a quick over-extension of the muscles in the neck and upper back. When whiplash occurs however, it is not just the neck that experiences that rapid back and forth “nodding” motion.

When whiplash occurs, the brain can experience what is called a “coup contrecoup” injury. This type of TBI is caused by a fast acceleration or deceleration of the head and brain and requires no direct external contact to the victim’s head. We all learned in grade school that Newton’s laws of motion require an object in motion to stay in motion until it is acted upon by an equal and opposite force. As we see all too often with rapid acceleration/deceleration injuries, the brain is not immune to this law. When a vehicle is forced to stop abruptly- as in a collision- the force of the wreck sends the head and neck forward and can even propel the victim’s brain into motion. When this occurs, the equal and opposite force that stops the forward momentum of the brain is the skull itself. This collision between the brain and the inside of the skull sends the brain jolting backwards until it hits another wall- the back of the skull. As you can see in the video below, a whiplash can easily result in severe trauma to both the front and back of the brain and can lead to severe injury to the victim.

So why do we only hear about brain injuries associated with some type of external trauma? Well, Traumatic Brain Injuries reveal themselves in many ways including both Primary and Secondary Damages. Primary damages are those that occur at the time of the injury. An injury that is the result of an external trauma- such as the victim’s head being slammed against a steering wheel or dash board- will likely present with obvious primary damage such as a skull fracture or a contusion at the site of the injury, making them very easy to identify. Meanwhile, victims of the less obvious internal injuries caused by an acceleration/deceleration trauma may experience more hidden symptoms, such as blood clots in the brain itself, tearing of brain tissue and/or blood vessels, or even damage to the nerve fibers in the brain.

Secondary injuries- those occurring after the time of the actual trauma- can be extremely dangerous to victims of acceleration/deceleration TBIs as they may go undetected by medical personnel until days or weeks after the accident occurred. These can include infection, brain swelling, oxygen deprivation, death of brain tissue, and internal bleeding within the skull.

According to the Brain Injury Association of America, automobile accidents account for over 17% of all reported traumatic brain injuries. If you’ve been in an accident and you’ve developed common TBI symptoms such as dizziness, irritability, headaches, changes in appetite, confusion, memory loss or physical impairment, it is extremely important, that you are evaluated by a physician with training in the diagnosis and treatment of coup contrecoup injuries.

If you are the victim of a traumatic brain injury, you will almost certainly need the assistance of an experienced personal injury attorney to assist you with recovering for the debilitating damage associated with TBI. Florida insurance companies aggressively defend their claims and may try to deny a claim or pay a minimum settlement amount on a “whiplash only” case, not realizing the very real possibility that the victim may be suffering from an undiagnosed traumatic brain injury caused by the collision. The experience brain injury lawyers at Dolman Law group will work just as aggressively for your interests. We actively litigate auto accident and motorcycle accident related cases in Pinellas County, Hillsborough County, Sarasota County, Manatee County and Pasco County. Located in central Pinellas County (Clearwater), Dolman Law Group is easily accessible to injury victims in St. Petersburg, Tampa, Palm Harbor, Dunedin, Safety Harbor, New Port Richey, Pinellas Park, Largo and Kenneth City. If you or someone you know is suffering from a traumatic brain injury, call our office today for a free consultation. 727-451-6900.

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