What Are The Different Types of Brain Injuries?
There are many types of brain injuries that can occur during an accident, and it's important to know the differences, and how to avoid them.
From concussions to anoxal injury, there are many types of trauma.
Below we explain the various types injuries as well as the most common causes of head trauma that can lead to brain damage.
6 Common Types of Brain Injuries
Brain injuries can either be open or closed head injuries. A blunt force impact results in closed head injuries while penetrations can cause an open head injury. The specific types of brain injuries include:
Concussions are the most common types of brain injuries. A sudden blow to the head can shake your brain and cause a concussion.
Depending on the force of impact, this injury can be mild or severe. Even mild concussions have the potential to cause lifelong damage. They can permanently change mood, behavior and other functions of the brain.
They may be caused due to a direct blow to the head or a gunshot wound. The brain is in trauma due to the impact of the sudden blow or movement. A person may or may not experience a loss of consciousness. It can also cause other severe brain injuries like a blood clot formation or a diffuse axonal injury (DAI).
2. Penetrating Injury
Sharp objects (such as knives, bullets, etc.) are responsible for penetrating injuries to the brain. The damage caused to the brain depends on the speed at which the object penetrates the skull and brain.
- A slow traveling object can ricochet within the skull and cause a wide area of damage.
- On the other hand, a “through-and-through” injury such as a bullet to the brain, causes other penetration injuries like the rupture of the brain tissue, additional shearing, etc.
Bullets are the leading cause of death that result from traumatic brain injury.
Open head injuries have significantly higher risks of fatal consequences. The immediate side effects include bleeding, blood clots, limited oxygen supply, etc. Further, removing the object can often cause further bleeding and damage.
3. Subdural Hematoma
A subdural hematoma causes blood to pool in the brain. A tear of even a single blood vessel within the brain’s dura (or cover), can cause blood to collect in the brain. Minor head injuries (like falls or bumps to the head) can also result in this severe consequence.
Infants and elderly people are more prone to these injuries. This is because the blood vessels in their brains are more vulnerable to tearing. Due to age, the blood vessels may be stretched or shrinking in older people. Newborns, on the other hand, may experience damage during delivery.
4. Diffuse Axonal Brain Injury
Similar to concussions, diffuse axonal brain injuries also result in the brain shaking due to sudden movement. However, these injuries are more severe than concussions.
It occurs when the head is unable to handle the rate of movement and shakes violently enough to cause tears in the brain. These tears may be deadly when large or cause minor injuries when microscopic.
This injury impacts several regions of the brain. The brain tissue slides over itself producing lesions, due to the rapid shaking or acceleration of the brain. Many sports-related accidents and motor vehicle accidents risk a diffuse axonal brain injury. The extent of the injury determines the risk of damage to other brain functions.
5. Anoxic and Hypoxic Brain Injury
Anoxic brain injuries are caused by the lack of oxygen to the brain. Oxygen is carried to the brain through the bloodstream. A blockage usually results in such injuries. It can be the result of a
- Heart attack
- Blood clot
Without oxygen to operate, the brain cells begin to die.
Hypoxic brain injury is the result of limited or incomplete oxygen supply to the brain. In this case, the brain receives some oxygen, but not enough. This results in brain damage.
It is caused due to insufficient oxygen in the lungs. Drowning, cardiac arrest, exposure to poisonous gases, etc. can cause hypoxic brain injuries.
A brain contusion usually occurs along with other major types of brain injuries. The injury is caused by bruising the head and results in a mild bleeding under the skin. This bleeding usually stops on its own. However, if a contusion does not stop bleeding it must be surgically removed.
The bruise may be visible on the head in the form of a blue coloration of the skin. On the brain, such contusions can cause complications such as a build-up of pressure in the brain. Severe bruises can also cause coup and contrecoup injuries.
These occur when the impact on the brain affects the opposing side of the impact point (on the skull or brain).
How Severe Is The Injury?
A brain injury can have permanent and irreparable consequences. Depending on the type of accident and its impact on the head, the severity of the injury varies.
From a mild bump to traumatic brain injury, these injuries can also be fatal.
These types of brain injuries may be severe or moderate, depending on the force exerted and other external circumstances. Some brain injuries can cause people to be unconscious. They may also experience disorientation, post-traumatic amnesia and so on.
Depending on the severity of damage, there are two types of brain injury:
- Moderate Brain Injury: A loss of consciousness for a time length of 15 minutes to 6 hours results in a moderate brain injury. Further, post-traumatic amnesia can last up to 24 hours. They are more likely to suffer residual symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, cognitive functions, behavioral changes and so on.
- Severe Brain Injury: If a victim has been unconscious for 6 hours or more, they may suffer from severe brain injury. They are more likely to be in long periods of coma. The longer the length of the coma, the more severe the damage caused to the victim.
The Main Causes Of Head Trauma
Head injuries can happen suddenly in almost any situation. The delicate brain is vulnerable to severe damage in even mild accidents.
When an external force strikes a person on the head, there is a chance it can result in having a brain injury.
The soft brain tissue is protected by a surrounding fluid that does not allow the brain to be in direct contact with the skull.
However, a violent action can move or jolt the brain significantly. This causes contact between the brain and skull which can result in closed head damage to some or all parts of the brain.
Penetrating injuries (such as a gunshot) cause a more visible and severe form of damage, by piercing through the skull and into the brain (or through it).
Most traumatic brain injuries result in the loss of consciousness. This may be for 15 minutes or longer.
Mild injuries may not knock the person out but it will usually cause some dizziness or confusion.
1. Slips and Falls
A large number of traumatic brain injuries are caused due to slip and fall accidents. These incidents usually occur when a person slips on surfaces such as wet or polished floors.
Falls are also caused by:
- Tripping on uneven surfaces
- Loose flooring
- Cluttered walking pathways and so on.
Falls caused due to slips and trips are often completely preventable. The most common instances of people injuring their head due to a fall are:
- Tripping over a curb or sidewalk and slamming the head onto a nearby object or the ground.
- Falling at home (or someone else’s home) and knocking your head onto furniture (usually tables, countertops, etc.)
- Slipping on a wet floor and landing on your back.
- Tripping over debris on the floor.
Even a minor fall can result in traumatic brain injury. The impact on the head will determine the severity of the injury and its long-term consequences.
When a person senses a fall they also attempt to break the fall using their arms and hands. However, this makes them vulnerable to other serious injuries such as back injuries, sprained muscles, broken bones, cuts, etc.
2. Motor Vehicle Accidents
Motor vehicle accidents are the most common causes of traumatic brain injury, which is the specialty of brain injury law firms. In these accidents, head injuries are caused due to the sheer force of a crash.
The head may strike the steering wheel or simply jolt the brain to collide with the skull. Open head injuries are also possible if the person is knocked over the windshield. It is accompanied by blunt trauma and has more serious consequences.
In some cases, it is possible that the automobile manufacturer is held responsible for the collision. Automobile manufacturers are required to consider the possibility of a crash when designing the vehicle.
If the vehicle failed to protect the passengers the way it should have, the manufacturer may be held responsible. Further, defects such as sudden automatic acceleration can cause significant injuries and damage. Common automobile defects include:
- Defective airbags and/or seatbelts
- Faulty door latches
- Improper roofs
- Laminated glass on windshields and windows (instead of tempered glass)
- Child safety seat failures
- Tire failures
Brain injuries can also be caused indirectly by a vehicle collision. A sudden deceleration of the vehicles (a sudden break) causes the body to violently jerk.
The brain that has been traveling at a lower speed than the skull knocks against the skull causing coup and contrecoup injuries.
These types of brain injuries affect both the site of impact, as well as, the area opposite to the site of impact.
Such violent movement also results in another type of brain injury called diffuse axonal injury. Small and large tears may occur along the nerves of the brain.
Such closed head injuries are often termed “silent killers”.
This is because they do not manifest until much later. Further, even if the primary symptoms or consequences subside, secondary symptoms can continue to appear in the following weeks and months. Hence it is important to check for any brain damage immediately after a vehicle accident, crash and collision.
3. Medical Malpractice
Hospitals and health care professionals can also display negligent behavior and cause severe injuries or death.
These types of brain injuries caused in a healthcare setting may not be immediately obvious. The errors that doctors make are often not apparent until much later. These include:
- Failure to diagnose
- Neglect or abuse
- Surgical errors
- Errors made during delivery
- Prescription errors (wrong medication or dosage)
- Medical malpractice can often result in death. However, in some cases, the damage caused is a serious injury. For instance, if a doctor fails to detect a blood clot the patient may suffer a stroke that causes brain damage.
Bacterial infection is another common consequence of medical negligence. The development of bedsores in nursing homes can result due to intentional or unintentional neglect.
The sores penetrate deep into tissue and may create a pathway for bacteria.
Poor sanitation in hospitals or negligence in nursing homes can raise the risk of an infection called sepsis. In hospitals, infection can also be passed on through catheters and during surgery.
Sepsis causes a rapid inflammatory reaction which results in organ failure. Immediate action may be able to prevent this, however, survivors of sepsis usually suffer brain damage.
In a healthcare facility, it may be difficult for the patient to recognize the fault of the facility or its staff. Loved ones should keep an eye out for such incidents and investigate the cause of injuries.
4. Acts of Violence
Assault and violence usually result in a number of serious injuries. These types of brain injuries caused due to acts of violence can be open head injuries (gunshots or knife) or closed head injuries (concussions, contusions, etc.).
The most common cause of violence-related brain injuries is domestic violence. It can be between spouses and a current or ex-partner. In the United States, an average of 4.8 million women report physical assaults.
Further, frequent physical assaults can cause severe symptoms and consequences. These assaults can be in the form of:
- Violent shaking which causes the brain to rock back and forth within the skull. This creates tears and lacerations in the brain tissue which cause long-term and irreparable damage.
- Blows to the head which can cause localized damage (at the site of impact). If the force was severe enough, there may also be diffused damage to brain tissue at the area opposite the site of impact. This happens when a victim’s head is smashed with an object or against the wall.
- Strangulation, which cuts off the oxygen supply to the brain. This causes acquired brain injuries that are characterized by an the lack of oxygen supply to the brain.
Most victims of domestic violence do not come forward to report or treat their injuries.
Further, since brain injury is an “invisible injury” the damage is usually not evident immediately. The seriousness of their medical condition is thus not identifiable by the mere appearance of “looking fine”. This makes the victims susceptible to sustained and frequent incidents of brain injury. A repeat injury (before the first brain injury has healed) raises the risk of adverse and irreparable damage.
5. Sports-Related Injuries
Contact sports such as football, hockey, boxing, etc. are increasingly found to result in mild or moderate concussions. Since these injuries are closed-head injuries, most players and athletes ignore the symptoms of a brain injury. This neglect can result in severe damage. Every year, an average of 3.8 million athletes suffer concussions due to their sport.
Of all the sports, football causes the most number of head and brain injuries. On field collisions, heading the ball and knock-out punches frequently occur during the sport.
These can result in mild concussions that have the possibility of developing into a serious injury.
Additionally, most players are eager to get back in the game. This means they might downplay their symptoms or return to play before the injury has healed completely. This makes athletes prone to repeat concussions. Many professional athletes have sustained multiple brain injuries that resulted in degenerative diseases such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, dementia, Alzheimer’s and so on.
When Should You File a Claim?
Given the dangerous and sometimes stealthy nature of any types of brain injuries, they must be attended to immediately. Seeking medical attention is the priority in any of the situations listed above.
If the accident has been caused due to the negligence or actions of another person or entity, you can claim compensation for the injury.
The responsible party is liable to pay for damages suffered by the victim.
Experienced traumatic brain injury attorneys can assist you in navigating the complex laws regarding injury lawsuits. At Nehora Law Firm, we understand the traumatic experience of recovering from a brain injury. Our team of experienced personal injury attorneys can minimize the burdens of the legal process and provide dedicated and skillful legal representation.