Concussions occur frequently – one happens every 15 seconds in the United States. Many people can recover quickly with rest and time, but concussions can also lead to very serious and long-term medical problems like loss of balance or visual problems, “foggy memory” and loss of concentration and insomnia as well as more serious emotional or behavioral changes, like depression. Unfortunately, concussions can also lead to death.
After experiencing a concussion, victims may find themselves in a state of confusion or have an inability to concentrate. Anyone who suspects they may have a concussion should seek immediate medical attention.
People who experience a concussion may be unlikely to realize it until long after the concussion occurs – five out of ten concussions go unreported or undetected. Of those who seek medical care, diagnosis is not always correct and could be missed completely.
Victims may think that because the initial blow did not seem to do much damage at the time, that they are ‘OK’. If a person never lost consciousness, they may think there is no need to worry. They get up and brush it off. But the reality is that only 10% of people who suffer a concussion actually lose consciousness.
Recently, concern over concussion has increased due in part to the recent findings of the long term effects of a concussion from sports injuries. Movies like the 2015 film ‘Concussion’ starring Will Smith also help raise awareness about the detrimental effects of head trauma and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive degenerative disease suffered by people who have received a severe blow to the head.
Awareness of Second Impact Syndrome, or SIS, is also increasing. SIS can lead to instant and tragic consequences and occurs upon having a second impact to the brain after an initial concussion, which has not yet healed.
In addition, more research studies on concussions are coming out as medical professionals become more knowledgeable about proper diagnosis and treatments. Right here in Pittsburgh, PA, medical experts are paving the way for innovative solutions for diagnosing and treating concussion, like Dr. Michael Collins, the executive director of the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program.
What is a Concussion?
A concussion, or mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), is defined as a complex pathophysiological process affecting the brain, induced by traumatic biomechanical forces.
Fewer than 10% of the more than two million concussions annually include a loss of consciousness after impact.
A concussion can come from a blow to the head, but actually any blow to the head, neck or other parts of the body that sends a strong jolt to the head or brain could cause a concussion.
A concussion can occur in many types of accidents and incidents, such as:
- Sports Injuries
- Car Accidents (whiplash, violent impact, etc.)
- Motorcycle Accidents
- Trucking Accidents
- Slip and Falls (slippery entryways, sidewalks, etc.)
- Industrial Slip and Falls
- Domestic Violence (blows to the head)
Symptoms of a Concussion or Head Injury
A concussion can result in a mix of physical, cognitive, emotional or sleep-related symptoms. Symptoms differ from person to person and depend on a number of risk factors and the force of impact.
Symptoms may last from minutes to hours to days, weeks, months or longer. 15% of people with mild traumatic brain injury have symptoms lasting one year or longer.
Symptoms may not be present or noticed at the time of injury. It may be weeks before symptoms appear and are often subtle. Abnormalities on standard structural neuroimaging studies may not be visible. Victims may experience symptoms ranging from mild to severe.
According to UPMC’s concussion program, there are six subtypes of concussion, based on the part of the brain damaged: cognitive/fatigue; vestibular, which affects balance; ocular, which involves vision; post-traumatic migraine; cervical, affecting the neck and spinal cord; and anxiety/mood. People may experience a combination of symptoms, but they can usually be organized and ranked using these subtypes, according to UPMC’s Dr. Michael Collins.
Symptoms of a brain injury can include any of the following:
- Memory loss
- Disorientation / Confusion
- Loss of concentration / Not thinking clearly
- Loss of balance / Dizziness
- Vision impairment or disturbances
- Sensitivity to light and sounds
- Sleep troubles (Trouble falling or staying asleep, insomnia)
- Depression and mood changes
- Loss of smell
- Slowness in thinking
In addition to these symptoms, recent reports claim that victims of concussion are three times more likely to commit suicide than the average person.
For more information on concussions, symptoms and diagnosis, see UPMC’s The Science of Concussion
Diagnosis for a Concussion
The first thing any injured victim should do after a head injury or trauma is to seek medical attention. Your doctor should ask you questions about the injury and give you a complete neurological examination as well as test your cognitive abilities. Brain imaging may also be recommended. If the brain is bleeding or bruised, the injury should show up on a CT scan or an MRI.
It is possible that a concussion or traumatic head injury may not show up on a standard imaging scan. Your doctor may decide to keep you in the hospital overnight for observation.The doctor may also refer you to a neurologist or neurosurgeon for further examination.
For sports related injuries, the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program has developed a diagnostic test for concussion injuries called ImPACT. They have five sites around the Pittsburgh region, which see over 17,000 patients annually.
Consult with a Pittsburgh concussion injury attorney if you suspect you may have a concussion. If your injuries are the fault of another person, company or organization, you or your family could be eligible to seek monetary compensation for your injuries and the medical care they require.
Our attorneys are aggressive in their approach to finding the maximum settlement for clients while being compassionate and sympathetic to what your family is going through.
Treatments For Concussion
One big misconception about head injuries is that a person should not fall asleep after suffering a blow to the head or mild concussion. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Getting rest after suffering a head injury, once you’ve sought out proper medical treatment, is the key to recovering from a head injury. A new study by Georgetown University Medical Center explains why rest is critical in “allowing the brain to reset neural networks and repair any short-term injury.”
But treating a concussion may take more than simply sleep. Traumatic brain injuries can take long recovery time and people who have been injured may need to cease playing sports and doing other strenuous activities, especially to avoid SIS injuries (Second Impact Syndrome). According to ImPACT at UPMC, in roughly 85% of concussion cases, recovery time may require a month or longer.
In certain circumstances, it may be recommended that a concussion victim quit driving, studying, operating machinery or doing other daily routine tasks required at work or home. This can be very depressing and debilitating, as well as interfere with employment and schoolwork.
Fortunately, Pittsburgh is becoming an international hub for concussion diagnosis and treatment. Our own UMPC is at the forefront of not only diagnosing concussions but also developing treatments for concussion injuries and head trauma. Their concussion treatment plan is based upon a patient’s unique circumstances, but may include the following:
- Physical and behavioral therapy
- Vestibular or ocular (eye) therapy
- Training exercises to promote motor skills, balance, and reflexes
- Exertion training
- Medical interventions
Getting Compensation for Your Injuries
If you suffered an injury or believe you are a victim of a concussion or traumatic brain injury in which another person or entity was at fault, you should speak to an experienced Pittsburgh personal injury attorney who is knowledgeable about concussions and head injuries.
Our attorneys are well trained in understanding the effects of concussions and their impact on the value of our clients’ lives. We have been at the forefront in successfully arguing that concussions and traumatic brain injuries should receive just compensated for victims and their families, the same as any other physical injury.
If you or your loved one suffered from a concussion or traumatic brain injury, you may be able to seek compensation for the following:
- Current and future medical expenses
- Current and future lost wages
- Emotional distress
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of quality of life
If you or a loved one suffered a concussion, contact the Pittsburgh serious injury attorneys at SMT Legal for a free case evaluation. We are aggressive lawyers and will work to collect the maximum compensation for your medical costs.