Car accidents are sadly common in the United States with nearly four million accidents per year resulting in property damage and 1,593,390 accidents with injuries. In a single recent year, 35,766 fatal car accidents occurred. When accidents happen, some victims aren’t immediately aware of all of their injuries. Adrenaline and other stress hormones sometimes mask symptoms of serious injuries, including concussions.
A concussion is a traumatic brain injury with serious health implications. Car accident victims with concussions should receive treatment for their injuries and require monitoring until they recover.
Before a car accident victim can receive the important medical care they need, it’s important to know what a concussion is and how to recognize the signs of a concussion that may develop during the hours and days after a car accident.
What Is a Concussion?
A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury that occurs due to a blow to the head or from a violent jarring or shaking—both of which commonly occur in car accidents. Doctors describe concussions as “mild brain injuries” because most people make full recoveries, but no injury to the brain is truly mild. Concussions occur when the brain bumps or twists against the inside of the skull, resulting in inflammation and damage to delicate cells. This damage causes noticeable changes in brain function.
The combination of adrenaline and emotional trauma after a car accident may mask symptoms of head injuries, including concussions. In some cases, the inflammation in the brain worsens during the hours after the injury, only becoming noticeable when the pressure inside the brain increases. Some research indicates that the human brain compensates for this type of injury immediately after an accident, but as the hours pass, the brain’s defense systems tire or become overwhelmed, causing noticeable symptoms to appear.
Signs of a Concussion After a Car Accident
During the traumatic aftermath of a car accident, injury victims may focus on other passengers with injuries or may experience such a rush of relief that they’ve survived unscathed, that they don’t immediately notice subtle symptoms of a concussion that could worsen over the hours and days after the initial trauma. Common signs of a concussion include the following:
- Loss of consciousness, even if only for a few moments (it’s important to note that not all concussion victims lose consciousness)
- Confusion after regaining consciousness
- Vision changes
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory problems
- Ringing in the ears
- Mood changes such as irritability, anxiety, or depression
- Sleep disturbances
If any of the above symptoms appear after a car accident, it’s important to receive medical treatment and monitoring.
Post-Concussion Syndrome and Re-Injury Risks After a Car Accident
Most concussions are not life-threatening and symptoms pass within days of the injury; however, in a small percentage of cases, some concussion patients experience post-concussion syndrome with symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, fatigue, anxiety, and depression lasting for months or even years after a concussion. While doctors don’t have a complete understanding of the causes of post-concussion syndrome, they can treat the victim’s symptoms effectively.
When a person experiences a concussion, they may be more prone to reinjury in the months and years after the injury. Repeated concussions are associated with a type of dementia later in life that results in Alzheimer-like symptoms in patients; however, this is more common in athletes who play contact sports than victims of car accidents.
If you suspect you or a loved one has a concussion after a car accident, it’s important to your physical health to seek treatment as soon as possible. Documenting medical evidence of a concussion also helps victims recover medical expenses in a McKinney car accident claim so they can focus on healing.