Brain & Spinal Cord Injuries

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is damage to the brain caused by a sudden physical force such as a blow or jolt to the head. TBI may be caused from a direct blow to the head or from a severe shaking of the head. When the head is subjected to such a blow or to a whiplashtype situation, the brain can collide with the bonyridged surfaces of the skull. This type of impact tears the axons (wirelike structures) and neurons connected by the axons, causing bruising and bleeding of the brain.

Traumatic Brain Injuries may range from a brief change in mental status or consciousness (mild) to an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia (severe) to death. Not all blows to the head cause TBI. Any head injury, however, should be checked out by a doctor since TBI symptoms often do not appear immediately, and may not appear until days or weeks following an injury.

Some Statistics
In response to a mandate from Congress, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) conducted research and produced a report called “Traumatic Brain Injury in the United States: Emergency Department Visits, Hospitalizations, and Deaths.” According to that report:
  • �At least 1.4 million people sustain a TBI each year in the United States;
  • Of these, about 50,000 die, 235,000 are hospitalized, and 1.1 million are treated and released from an Emergency Department;
  • Approximately 475,000 TBIs occur among children ages 0 to 14 years;
  • Emergency Department visits account for more than 90% of the TBIs among victims ages 0 14 years;
  • Falls are the leading cause of TBI; rates are highest for children ages 0 to 4 years and for adults age 75 years or older;
  • Direct medical costs and indirect costs (such as lost productivity) of TBI are estimated at $60 billion �annually. This number does not take into account returning military service personnel with TBI.
Although about 75% of TBIs that occur each year are concussions or other forms of mild TBI, the CDC estimates that at least 5.3 million Americans currently have longterm or lifelong need for help to perform activities of daily living because of a TBI.
Symptoms of TBI
The following are some common signs and symptoms of a TBI:
  • Persistent headaches or neck pain
  • Difficulty making decisions, remembering things, or concentrating
  • Difficulty thinking, speaking, acting, or reading
  • Getting easily confused
  • Getting lost
  • Feeling tired all of the time
  • Unexplained mood changes
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Lightheadedness, dizziness, or loss of balance
  • Nausea
  • Increased sensitivity to lights, sounds, or distractions
  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of sense of smell or taste
  • Ringing in the ears
Children will have many of the same symptoms. However, it is sometimes difficult for them to communicate this to an adult. Watch your child for any of these symptoms:
  • Tiredness
  • Will not stop crying or cannot be consoled; irritability
  • Will not eat or nurse
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Changes in the way the child plays
  • Changes in performance at school
  • Lack of interest in favorite toys or activities
  • Loss of new skills, such as toilet training
  • Loss of balance or unsteady walking
  • Vomiting
Brain damage generally cannot be reversed. If you notice any of the above symptoms in you or a loved one, or if you or a loved one has suffered a blow to the head, go to the emergency room immediately, or call 911 for medical assistance in the case of an emergency.
Common Causes of TBI
The following are some common causes of TBI:
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Bicycle accidents
  • Motorcycle accidents
  • Snowmobile accidents
  • ATV accidents
  • Sports accidents while playing a contact sport, such as football, ice hockey, or boxing
  • Baseball and softball accidents while batting and running bases
  • Inline skates or skateboard accidents
  • Assault and Battery
  • Horse riding accidents
  • Skiing or snowboarding accidents
In addition, senior citizens should watch out for the following: �
  • Tripping hazards such as throw rugs and clutter in walkways
  • Slippery bathtub and shower floors
  • Lack of handrails on both sides of stairways
  • Elder Abuse
  • Inadequate lighting throughout the home
In addition, young children are in danger of TBI from:
  • Falling on playgrounds not made of shockabsorbing material, such as hardwood mulch or sand
  • Falling out of open windows
  • Falling down staircases
  • Child Abuse
The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control provides the following general tips that can aid in recovery:
  • Get lots of rest.
  • Do not rush back to daily activities such as work or school.
  • Avoid doing anything that could cause another blow or jolt to the head.
  • Ask your doctor when its safe to drive a car, ride a bike, or use heavy equipment, because your ability to react may be slower after a brain injury.
  • Take only the drugs your doctor has approved, and do not drink alcohol until your doctor says it is OK.
  • Write things down if you have a hard time remembering.
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Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)
Spinal Cord Injury is damage to the spinal cord that occurred from a disease to the vertebral column or from a traumatic injury to the spinal cord. Most injuries to the spinal cord result from the backbone pinching the spinal cord, causing it to become bruised or swollen. In some more serious cases, an injury may actually tear the spinal cord. When the spinal cord is injured, the nerves above the injury continue working normally; however, the nerves below the injury are unable to send messages between the brain and parts of the body as they did before the injury took place.
Medical professionals describe the location of a spinal cord injury by referring to the level of the vertebrae supporting the spinal cord. The top of the spinal cord consists of the cervical nerves, which are protected by C1 through C8 and T1 vertebrae. Next are the thoracic nerves, which are protected by T2 through T12, the lumbar nerves (L1 though L5), and the sacral nerves (S1 through S5).
The higher on the spinal cord the injury, the more bodily functions will be affected. Tetraplegia (formerly known as quadriplegia) occurs when the spinal injury is located from C1 to T1. In this case, the damaged cervical nerves affect head, neck, diaphragm, deltoids, biceps, upper chest, arms and hands. Paraplegia occurs when the injury is located between T2 and S5. A person suffering from paraplegia can have a loss of feeling or not be able to move such areas as the chest, stomach, hips, legs and feet.
Other consequences include loss of control in the bladder and bowels, loss of sexual function, loss of the body’s ability to control its temperature, and chronic pain.
It is important for someone who has sustained an SCI to seek medical help immediately. Many of the advances in spinal cord injury treatment have resulted in drugs such as methylprednisolone that decrease the swelling to the spinal cord close to the time of injury. The quicker you get emergency help, the better chance you have of recovery. If you suffer an injury to your spinal cord, call 911 and get immediate medical assistance.
Some Statistics
About 11,000 Americans per year sustain a spinal cord injury, and almost 200,000 people in the U.S. live with a disability resulting from a spinal cord injury. Motor vehicle collisions account for the greatest number of spinal cord injuries in person under 65. Falls account for the greatest amount of these injuries in persons 65 and older. Sports and other recreational activities cause 18% of spinal cord injuries, and more than half happen to people 15 to 29 years old.
Common Causes of SCI
Spinal cord injuries can be caused by any of the same events that cause traumatic brain injuries. In addition, causes of SCI include the following: �
  • Diving into shallow water head first;
  • Headfirst sports maneuvers such as sliding into a base or tackling; and
  • Failure to use a spotter for gymnastics moves.
Legal Help
Legal cases involving traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injury require an attorney who has a thorough understanding of all the aspects of TBI and SCI and is experienced in handling such cases. If you or a loved one has sustained a traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injury due to an accident or assault, call attorney James R. Gillen at 18776193095. Do not delay as you may have a valid claim and may be entitled to compensation for injuries, but a lawsuit must be filed before the applicable statute of limitations expires.
Traumatic Brain Injury