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Connecting the dots between car crashes and brain trauma


This might sound like a safety drill scenario that most residents of New Haven, Connecticut, may have seen. A person crashes a car, usually head-on, and the safety air bag pops out, preventing the person from being thrown forward. But the person's neck and head seem to oscillate forward and backward, and although the person may appear safe, there's a significant chance the individual may have suffered a concussion due to the sudden and rapid movement of the head.

Despite their innocuousness, concussions, otherwise called mild traumatic brain injuries, can have serious aftereffects. They are usually harder to diagnose, as even the usual symptoms may not occur right away. For instance, a person may be able to walk out of the individual's vehicle, and even manage to describe the event, but then suddenly lose consciousness or exhibits other unusual behavior. Sometimes, this may not even happen for days subsequent to the accident.

A concussion can sometimes result in a contusion, an injury to brain tissue in tandem with the rupturing of blood cells within the skull. The warning signs for a contusion include a prolonged, progressively worsened headache, loss or reduction in coordination of movements or speech and vomiting. While concussions may not require surgical interventions unless there is a serious clotting of blood, patients can require considerable time to recover.

It should be remembered that such injuries are as likely to affect children as adults. The treatment of children can often be more painful given their inability to accurately describe their feelings. However, no matter whether it is an adult or a child who suffers a brain injury as a result of a car accident, it is best to seek medical assistance as soon as possible, preferably as soon as the victim shows symptoms of having suffered such an injury.

Source: NIH.gov, "Traumatic Brain Injury Clinical Trials (TBI-CT) Network," accessed on Aug. 28, 2014

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