Motorcycle accidents pose the critical threat of traumatic brain injury (TBI) to riders. According to a 2009 federal government study on head injuries from motorcycle accidents, traumatic brain injury was diagnosed in 15% of motorcyclists who wore a helmet and in 21% of those who didn’t wear a helmet.
The initial explanation for the cause of a brain injury from a motorcycle accident is often simple and tragic: a rider gets knocked off his bike from the force of a collision, slamming his head into the pavement. But, there’s a lot more to know to fully understand the nature of the injury, and that can start with better knowledge on exactly how it occurred. Because knowledge is power, here’s what science tells us goes on when the brain gets injured in a wreck.
Since I’m not a scientist, I needed some help to understand the complexities of the brain. I found an informative summary in plain English from WETA-TB, a PBS station based in Washington, DC. Here’s what I learned, for your benefit.
What Exactly Is a Traumatic Brain Injury? What are the Warning Signs?
A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is brain damage, plain and simple. To accurately diagnose and treat these grave injuries, doctors describe the nature of the injury by pinpointing its location and extent of the damage.
Possibly the most frightening thing about a TBI is, it may occur without a visible head injury, or a minor bruise on the outside could be hiding a massive brain bleed on the inside. That’s why it's critical to watch any motorcycle accident injury victim like a hawk for potential brain injury warning signs.
How a Motorcycle Accident Causes a TBI
Most motorcycle accident injuries are closed head injuries. That’s a medical term indicating nothing penetrated the skull to cause the brain injury, like when someone gets shot in the head.
As a result of a motorcycle accident, the victim suffers a blow to the head—like when their head slams onto the road or pavement, or their head is whipped around powerfully back and forth or even side to side. That causes the brain to smack the inside of the skull, which is a real problem. The reason is, believe it or not, the inside of the skull isn’t smooth. It’s rough and uneven. When the brain collides with it, delicate tissues tear and blood vessels rip.
Most of the time, traumatic brain injury occurs at the impact site. But it can also occur on the other side. That’s a coup-contracoup injury.
Regardless of the impact site, the extent of the damage is often defined by whether it’s a focal or diffuse injury:
- Focal injury. Damage is usually limited to the frontal and temporal lobes. That’s the front and sides of the brain. These injuries can often be discovered through scans like MRIs or CTs.
- Diffuse injury. The extreme danger presented by this injury is two-fold: while brain damage is more widespread, it usually can’t be detected through scans. It’s most easily revealed through mental, emotional, or physical malfunctioning in the injured victim. In a diffuse brain injury, the brain’s yanking around unnaturally stretches or even severs delicate nerve tissues called neuronal axons. Axons are the “long arms” of nerve cells that connect cells to each other, which connects different areas of the brain to each other, and connects the brain to the rest of the body. When axons get damaged or cut off, the brain’s communication misfires or even stops.
A Primer on Recovery From Brain Damage After Motorcycle Accidents
Symptoms and recovery are unique to each person based on the injury location and extent of the damage their brain sustained. Severity ranges from a concussion—which can never be taken lightly—to a severe TBI. Doctors typically conduct some immediate tests for an initial diagnosis in all brain injury cases.
According to the NHTSA study, motorcycle accidents resulted in serious brain damage at an alarming rate. Motorcyclist TBIs were diagnosed as moderate 43% of the time and severe 34% of the time.
The more serious the injury, the more serious the life-altering mental, physical, emotional, and financial repercussions are to victims and their families. The long road to recovery, which for many is just reclaiming as much of their former life as they can and learning to live with their new limitations, often includes long hospitalizations with a release to a rehabilitation hospital. Luckily, brain injury patients can benefit from a medical team devoted to their best recovery.
You Need a Legal Team, Too
The medical problems after a motorcycle accident brain injury are often the tip of the iceberg. Victims and their families face a long list of legal hurdles before they have any hope of obtaining a proper settlement.
If you’ve got questions about a motorcycle accident, we’re here to help in the easiest way for you. Call us toll-free at 888-230-1841 or fill out a Get Help Now form. You will get answers from an experienced motorcycle accident attorney who’s helped brain injury victims.