Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced recently he would be taking a break from Sprint Cup racing, following several concussions which were the result of crashes. The last mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) he suffered affected his vison and his balance. These MTBI’s were not the result of a head injury, but whiplash. Most people are unaware that it does not require a high-speed crash to cause whiplash and a mild traumatic brain injury.
A typical whiplash accident would involve a driver who is struck from behind, while waiting at a traffic light or to pay a toll. A distracted driver rear ends the stopped vehicle causing the driver’s head to snap backwards, over the headrest and then lurch forward towards the steering wheel. In the best case, the driver of the rear-ended vehicle had a shoulder harness and lap belt buckled and their head never struck the steering wheel.
Usually, the rear-ended driver feels a bit shaken up but tells the responding police officer that they are fine, blaming their lost train of thought on the shock of the moment. After experiencing some neck pain and stiffness, a day or two later, they visit a chiropractor.
The chiropractor adjusts the neck and shoulders of the sufferer and recommends an over the counter pain medication and rest. The victim is feeling better and returns to work a few days later. It is at work when they realize they are having trouble in staying focused. Their vision is a little blurry and their memory is dulled. They might even be questioned by a concerned coworker about their well-being.
It is not uncommon for accident victims to remain stoic regarding certain whiplash symptoms, especially those of a subtle cognitive nature. They may dismiss the symptoms as fatigue, anxiety or even mild prolonged shock resulting from the event. Because they believe the symptoms are not within the scope of chiropractic care, they may never mention them to the doctor. Describing the symptoms may also be difficult. When asked whether they have any cognitive symptoms, patients may react with surprise because they never connected what they were experiencing to an underlying physical cause.
How does Whiplash Cause a Brain Injury?
When the head is forcefully thrust backward and forwards, the brain strikes the hard, bony walls of the skull and then rebounds, striking the opposite side. This may occur once or be repeated. The brain, which is suspended within the skull, bounces off of the skull, causing damage to some of the nerve cells. The damage most commonly occurs to the brain stem, which connects the brain to the spinal column, the frontal lobe behind the forehead, or the temporal lobe located on the side of the head. The ricochet effect can cause damage on the opposite side of the head. The severity and area of the injury is determined by the direction and impact. The injury can produce detrimental effects including problems with mobility, balance, coordination and strength. Also, effected may be communication skills, information processing, memory and emotions.
Most people who receive a mild traumatic brain injury from a whiplash accident will recover within 3 to 12 months, but in some cases the injury will result in long term, post concussive syndrome.
If You Are a Whiplash Accident Victim, What Should You Do?
Any person who suffers whiplash in a motor vehicle accident should always seek the care of a medical professional who is experienced in traumatic brain injuries. Even if there are no apparent symptoms, the professional can best determine the overall condition of the patient. Symptoms are often mild or even unapparent for days or even weeks following a mild traumatic brain injury. But if you or someone you love experiences any changes after an accident, it’s especially important to get to a doctor for evaluation.
Following diagnosis, the injured party is wise to retain the services of a qualified personal injury attorney. Even a mild traumatic brain injury can have effects that require costly long term medical care. Lost income over a victim’s lifetime may result from physical or psychological disability. There could be compensation available to negate these losses.
Vititoe Law Group has successfully represented victims of traumatic brain injury from whiplash or other reasons. If you or a loved one was injured in a whiplash accident contact Vititoe Law Group for a free consultation. It is important to act quickly as there are time limitations barring you from filing a claim.