Traumatic Brain Injury: Difficult to Detect, Hard to Diagnose
With the recent admissions from the National Football League that nearly a third of retired players are expected to develop long-term cognitive problems from traumatic brain injuries sustained while playing football, TBI continues to command a great deal of attention — in and out of sports.
What Are Traumatic Brain Injuries?
Traumatic brain injuries typically refer to some type of physical trauma to the head and brain, such as a blow, shake, bump, or contusion, that causes a disruption to normal brain functions. Common causes of TBI include contact sports like football, as well as automobile accidents, slip and falls, and acts of violence.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as 1.4 million Americans suffer a brain injury each year. In Colorado, approximately 950 deaths, 5,200 hospitalizations, and 27,000 emergency-room visits can be attributed to traumatic brain injury each year, according to the Colorado Brain Injury Program.
Symptoms of TBI
While some traumatic brain injuries are obvious, others result from closed head injuries such as whiplash, which cause the brain to knock against the skull. With a closed head injury, there is often no noticeable damage to the head, but the brain damage may still be significant.
Symptoms of brain injury depend on the type and severity of the damage, and may include:
- Persistent headache
- Inability to concentrate
- Loss of memory
- Fatigue or lethargy
- Noticeable changes in mood, behavior, or cognitive function
- Trouble reading or speaking
- Blurred vision
Many, but not all, accident victims suffer some period of unconsciousness after a brain injury. TBI can be difficult to recognize and unfortunately, there is no definitive test or examination to diagnose a traumatic brain injury, determine its severity, or predict its long-term effects on the victim. For these reasons, if you suffer any kind of blow to the head, it is important to seek medical attention promptly, even if you think the trauma was minimal and you don’t think you were injured.
Image by Richard Masoner