Brain Injuries: Traumatic vs. Non-Traumatic
The brain is a soft tissue organ that is vulnerable to damage from various internal and external factors. Some brain damage occurs during development or at birth, caused by things like genetic conditions, degenerative diseases, and birth complications. Brain damage that is not caused by such things is considered an acquired brain injury, or ABI.
According to the Brain Injury Association of America, “acquired brain injury” is an umbrella term that includes both non-traumatic and traumatic brain injuries.¹ This is the categorization that will be used here, though some sources consider traumatic brain injuries separate from ABIs.
Non-Traumatic Brain Injuries (NTBIs)
Non-traumatic brain injuries are those which occur as a result of something internal rather than an external impact to the head. The actual mechanism of damage varies, depending on the situation, and may involve exposure to toxic chemicals, pressure against the brain, or a lack of oxygen. Because there isn’t necessarily a clear traumatic event involved, it’s possible for a person to be unaware that they’ve suffered an NTBI until symptoms begin to appear.
Common Causes of Non-Traumatic Brain Injuries
The following are some of the most common causes of NTBIs:
- Stroke: The leading cause of NTBIs, a stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is cut off in some way. Without this supply, brain tissue begins to die off.²
- Asphyxiation: Anything that restricts breathing or oxygen intake can eventually lead to brain damage. Choking, near-drowning, and suffocation are just a few examples.
- Tumors: Tumors (benign or cancerous) in or near the brain can create pressure that damages the tissue directly or which cuts off blood flow to the area. If the tumor is able to be safely removed with surgery, this process can, unfortunately, leave additional damage.
- Illness: Various illnesses affect the body in ways that raise the risk of NTBIs. In addition to cancer and cancer-related illnesses, things like meningitis can lead to brain damage.
- Infection or inflammation: Damage can also be caused by an infection in the brain or by other causes of inflammation.
- Toxic substances: Exposure to known neurotoxins like carbon monoxide and lead can cause damage to brain tissue.
Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs)
Unlike an acquired brain injury, a traumatic brain injury (TBI) is one that results from an external physical impact or trauma. In these cases, the force of an external trauma may transfer directly into the skull and brain tissue (like by direct head impact), or they may cause the brain to bounce dangerously against the inside of the skull (like by a violent shake or jerk).
Common Causes of Traumatic Brain Injuries
The following are some of the most common causes of traumatic brain injuries:³
- Slips and falls (28%): An unexpected fall can cause the head to hit against the ground and/or the brain to shake around in the skull. Even slipping on a small patch of ice and catching yourself with your arms can be enough of an impact to cause a concussion or TBI.
- Car accidents (20%): The sudden impact of a car crash can shake or jerk a person’s body, causing their head to whip violently in the process. In addition to causing whiplash in the neck and spine, this jarring motion can cause the brain to slam against the walls of the skull, leading to serious injury.
- Being Accidentally Struck By or Against Something (19%): A person may be struck by (or slammed into) falling objects, unwieldy machinery, etc. Construction sites pose a risk of such accidents due to the regular movement of workers, machinery, and materials in a relatively limited space.
- Assault (11%): An attacker may violently impact a victim’s head by punching them, hitting them with a weapon, or slamming them against a hard surface.
When struck directly by an object or an assault weapon, victims usually are injured by one of two kinds of trauma:
- Blunt force trauma: If a person is struck in the head by a blunt object, the impact can bruise and damage the tissues inside. The protective skull absorbs a portion of the impact, but the remaining force is taken by the brain. A person might be assaulted with a blunt weapon like a bat, or they may be hit by falling debris on a construction site.
- Penetrating injuries: Certain weapons, projectiles, or debris may penetrate the skull or enter the brain tissue via vulnerable areas. A person may be shot or stabbed in the head during an assault, or some kind of debris may penetrate the skull during an accident.
Watch for These Brain Injury Symptoms
Possible symptoms of a brain injury include:
- Temporary unconsciousness
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Memory loss
- Motor problems
- Respiratory issues
- Cognitive difficulties
- Mood changes
- Sleep problems
- Increased sensitivity to light and noise
- Trouble balancing
- Loss of energy
- Blurry vision
There are additional rare symptoms that can be a sign of imminent, life-threatening dangers like blood clots. Call 911 or have a caregiver take you to the ER immediately if you experience any of the following:
- Loss of consciousness
- Worsening, persistent headache
- Weakness or numbness
- Slurring speech
- Extreme drowsiness
- Difficulty waking
- Continued nausea/vomiting
- Differently sized pupils
- Seizures or convulsions
- Difficulty recognizing places or people
- Increased confusion or agitation
- Other notably unusual behavior
It’s important to seek proper medical help after an accident. Even if you feel fine, there could be damage you’re not aware of. If at any point you begin to develop symptoms like the ones above, it’s crucial that you seek medical attention to prevent or address any brain damage.
Long-Term Repercussions of Brain Injuries
The long-term effects of a brain injury vary, depending on what happened and how severe the injury was. In the case of minor brain injuries like concussions, most people’s symptoms go away within about two weeks.⁴ In more severe cases, patients may spend years dealing with various physical, cognitive, and emotional effects.
Depending on the severity of the injury and the part(s) of the brain affected, long-term issues may include:
- Impaired mobility, balance, and coordination
- Impaired or slowed speech
- Hormone imbalances
- Sexual dysfunction
- Difficulty communicating
- Poor memory
- Impaired problem-solving abilities
- Executive dysfunction
- Problems with planning, organization, focus, motivation
- Emotional changes
- Depression, anxiety
- Mood swings
- Feeling emotions more intensely
- Personality changes
- Shocking behaviors
- Impulsiveness, inappropriate behavior, obscene language, etc.
If You’ve Suffered a Brain Injury by No Fault of Your Own, Our Personal Injury Lawyers Can Help
Sadly, brain injuries often result from preventable accidents and health events. Whether a crash left you with a TBI or a harmful drug increased your risk of NTBI, the fact is that it played a role in your injuries. If you’re dealing with ongoing medical problems and financial strain, you have a right to seek compensation for your losses and suffering.
A personal injury attorney from Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer & Harris can help you build a strong case and fight for what you’re owed as a victim. We also make it affordable to get the legal help you need through our contingency policy. It’s absolutely free to hire a lawyer, and you won’t have to pay us unless we recover damages for you.
Contact us online or call (713) 893-0971 today to schedule a free case evaluation with a brain injury attorney.