Types of Traumatic Brain Injuries in Motorcycle Accidents
Unfortunately, motorcycle accidents can still occur. When they do happen, they often lead to more serious injuries than those in car accidents because of the lack of a metal frame. There are many different types of injuries that someone could sustain while riding a bike. One of the most severe possibilities is a traumatic brain injury.Mechanisms of Traumatic Brain Injuries: Motorcycles
A traumatic brain injury is an injury to the brain tissue enclosed within the skull. These can vary in severity from a minor concussion to a possible, life-threatening, catastrophic injury. Unlike other parts of the body, the brain does not have the same regenerative capacity. This means that if the neurons inside the brain are damaged, they are often permanent. Some of the mechanisms of a traumatic brain injury that occur while riding a motorcycle include:
- If people are thrown from the bike, they could strike their head on the pavement or on a nearby object.
- A traumatic brain injury could occur following a blunt blow to the skull, where fragments of the skull secondarily damage the brain tissue.
- A penetrating injury of the brain could damage the blood vessels and neurons underneath.
- If another vehicle is involved, someone could strike their head on the other car.
Because of the lack of a protective metal frame, those who ride motorcycles are at a significantly increased risk of suffering a traumatic brain injury. In some cases, it could be obvious that someone needs to be evaluated for a head or brain injury following a motorcycle accident. In other situations, the signs of a traumatic brain injury may not manifest until later.Symptoms of a Traumatic Brain Injury: What to Watch For
Because a traumatic brain injury involves damage to the brain tissue itself, the symptoms could vary depending on the location of the brain that has been damaged. On the other hand, there are a few common symptoms that are shared between many different types of brain injuries. Some of the common symptoms include:
- A serious headache
- A possible depression in the skull around the site of the impact
- Bruising of the eyes
- Leaking of fluid from the ears
- Blood behind the eardrum
- A potential loss of consciousness
- Increased irritability
- A rising heart rate or falling blood pressure
- Memory loss
- Possible blindness or hearing loss
- Difficulty focusing
If a brain injury isn't diagnosed quickly, these symptoms could progress and possibly lead to death. Therefore, it is important to know some information about the various types of traumatic brain injuries that could occur.Types of Traumatic Brain Injuries
According to information published by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA), individuals who ride motorcycles are 26 times more likely to be killed in an accident than those who ride in a car, on a per-mile-traveled basis. In many cases, the cause of death is a traumatic brain injury. Furthermore, traumatic brain injuries are among the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in the United States. There are many different types of traumatic brain injuries that someone could suffer, which include:
- Concussion: While many people think of a concussion as a "mild" head injury, concussions can actually lead to a loss of consciousness. Even a single concussion can have lasting effects and could also lead to chronic headaches.
- Cerebral Contusion: This is the term used to describe a bruise of the brain. This shows up on a scan of the brain, such as a CT scan or an MRI, as visible damage to the brain.
- Coup-Contrecoup Injury: In this type of injury, the impact is on one side of the head, and the damage is at the opposite side. This happens because the brain moves inside the skull. The opposite side of the brain from the side of the impact strikes the skull with tremendous force, leading to a traumatic brain injury.
- Epidural Hematoma: An epidural hematoma is a bleed that occurs inside the brain. This happens when the middle meningeal artery is torn. If someone falls from a motorcycle and strikes the side of his or her head, often called the temple, this brain bleed can occur. If not spotted quickly, it could be fatal. Sometimes, this injury is missed because the symptoms often do not show up immediately.
- Subdural Hematoma: An acute subdural hematoma is one of the most serious traumatic brain injuries. This is a rupture of multiple blood vessels inside of the brain. It requires severe trauma, such as that seen when someone is thrown from a motorcycle and strikes another object. The prognosis of an acute subdural hematoma is poor.
All of these traumatic brain injuries have the potential to be serious. The emergent treatment of a traumatic brain injury often includes intravenous fluids, steroids, and possible surgery. Even after someone has been stabilized following a severe accident, serious complications can still develop.Possible Complications of Neurological Damage
The recovery process following a traumatic brain injury does not stop once the individual leaves the hospital. Depending on the location and the severity of the traumatic brain injury, serious complications can follow. Some of the common problems that families should watch for include:
- Chronic Pain: Without a doubt, one of the major difficulties is chronic pain. The brain processes motor and sensory signals from all over the body. If the brain has been damaged, it might have trouble processing these signals correctly. The brain could interpret these signals as pain, which can be difficult for individuals to deal with.
- Memory Loss: Another troubling aspect of traumatic brain injuries is memory loss. There are two different types of memory loss. In retrograde memory loss, the individual loses the ability to remember old memories. In anterograde memory loss, people lose the ability to form new memories. Some people could have both types of memory loss to varying degrees.
- Early-Onset Dementia: Many people who have suffered a traumatic brain injury also have earlier-onset dementia. Dementia is a broad category used to describe various types of mental disorders, with Alzheimer's being the most common type. In addition to memory issues, people with dementia can also lose the ability to perform their activities of daily living. This includes balancing a checkbook, cooking, cleaning, and doing laundry.
It is easy to see how these different issues can place a lot of stress on family members and friends. Some individuals with traumatic brain injuries could become entirely dependent on someone else for all of their care. Because of this, people should take steps to prevent head injuries from occurring while riding a motorcycle.The Importance of Helmet Use
One of the ways that people can protect themselves against severe traumatic brain injury is to wear a helmet. Over the years, technology has progressed drastically, and many studies have shown that motorcycles can significantly reduce the risk of suffering a head injury in a motorcycle accident. In a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology, this was demonstrated once again. According to some of the information published in the study:
- The researchers compared information on helmet laws in different states, collecting data on their accident and injury rates.
- In states with universal helmet laws, helmet use was 88 percent.
- In states without universal helmet laws, the rate of helmet use was only 42 percent.
- In states without a universal helmet law, the likelihood of a traumatic brain injury was more than twice that of states with a universal helmet law.
- General injuries to the face, neck, and head area were also more common.
The information in this study shows just how crucial it is for everyone to wear a helmet. Unfortunately, many people still do not take advantage of helmets. Some people may think that:
- Helmets are uncomfortable.
- They make it hard to see or hear.
- They just don't look "cool."
No matter what anyone thinks about the "style" of helmets, the bottom line is that they can prevent serious injuries and save lives.
The video below shows how to choose the right motorcycle helmet size for your head.Sacramento Motorcycle Accident Attorney
I’m Ed Smith, a motorcycle accident attorney in Sacramento. Motorcycle accidents can lead to a wide variety of traumatic brain injuries, which could leave someone with lifelong complications. If you or a loved one has developed injuries in a motorcycle accident, call me at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400 for free, friendly legal advice.
We are members of the National Association of Distinguished Counsel and the Million Dollar Advocates Forum.
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Editor’s Note: This page has been updated for accuracy and relevancy [cha 12.3.20]
Image by Dmitrii Bardadim from Pixabay
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