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Head Trauma and Brain Injury - Learn What To Do Before It
Head injury and brain trauma are far too common and are often
mistreated - or even missed entirely, which reduces the chances of full recovery. Here's the short story -
what you need to know before it happens...
Volume VI # 89 Copyright 2014 All Rights
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Perhaps it’s a motorcycle accident, or even a car accident. Or suddenly hit
by an object. Maybe someone carried out an assault. Or it could come from being too close to a blast
that causes a sudden pressure change inside the head. Any way it happens, traumatic brain injury occurs far
too often. It’s estimated that in the US there are about 1.7 million occurrences. The chances are, therefore, that
it will affect you, either directly or indirectly.[i]
The thing is, the injury could be really serious even
though nothing much appears wrong on the outside. That’s why it pays to have some facts at hand for assessing how
serious it might be. Whether mild or deadly, the bottom line is that getting the appropriate help as quickly
as possible means a speedier and more complete recovery.
How Does Brain Trauma Take
The analogy of an egg can give you an idea of how serious brain damage can take place
without much – or even any - outward sign of damage. Think of the cranium – all the bones that hold the brain
– as being like the shell of an egg with the brain like the yolk inside the egg. When traumatized, the outer
cranium/shell may remain intact, but inside, the brain/ egg yolk can be violently displaced as it is thrown within
the white of the egg, or the cerebral spinal fluid.
What Should You Do
First, you need to call 911 – or get someone to call 911
and get an ambulance on the way immediately if the injured person has:
- Blood or clear fluids coming
from the ears or nose;
- Unconsciousness, confusion,
dizziness, or drowsiness;
- Unequal pupil
size or blurred or double vision.
Do not move the person’s head,
as they may have a broken neck and you could cause them to stop breathing or become paralyzed from moving it.
Instead if you have something cold, put it next to their head WITHOUT MOVING THEIR
Then, assuming it’s someone else and not you who’s
injured, you can help to a great extent by letting emergency personnel know the extent of the injury even before
they arrive on the scene. Research has demonstrated that the more quickly an injured person is assessed and
appropriate emergency treatment given, the better the outcome down the road.
If you’re talking to emergency personnel on a cell
phone before they arrive, here’s some of what they will want to know. In addition to whether or not the person is
breathing, it will help them to know:
1. The person’s
eye opening response: do they open their eyes spontaneously, do they blink, respond with their
eyes to verbal stimuli, command or speech, only to pain, or no eye response.
2. How do they respond to verbal input: do they seem oriented? Confused in
their conversation even though they have the ability to respond to questions, do they answer inappropriately or
with incomprehensible speech, or give no response?
3. What is their motor response? Can they
obey a command for movement (such as can you lift your finger, stick out your tongue, etc.), do they move
purposefully in response to pain, do they withdraw from pain, flex in response to pain, extend their body in
response to pain or give no response?
The answers to these questions are ones that can tell
professionals the part of the brain may be injured, the extent and severity of the insult, and the depth of injury,
for example, and whether the person’s head injury is minor, moderate or severe.[ii]
Aftereffects of a traumatic brain
Once the emergency is taken care of and the person is
medically stable, they may have been discharged from the hospital and told they can go on with their normal
life. But that doesn’t mean the traumatic brain injury problems are done. According to the Centers for
Disease Control, the signs and symptoms of a TBI “can be subtle and may not appear until days or weeks following
the injury or may even be missed as people may look fine even though they may act or feel
The following are some common signs and symptoms that
the traumatic brain injury is still an issue:
- Headaches or neck pain that do
not go away;
- Difficulty remembering,
concentrating, or making decisions;
- Slowness in thinking, speaking, acting, or
- Getting lost or easily confused;
- Feeling tired all of the time,
having no energy or motivation;
- Mood changes (feeling sad or
angry for no reason);
- Changes in sleep patterns (sleeping a
lot more or having a hard time sleeping);
- Light-headedness, dizziness, or
loss of balance;
- Urge to vomit
- Increased sensitivity to lights, sounds, or
- Blurred vision or eyes that tire
- Loss of sense of smell or taste;
- Ringing in the
If these symptoms are taking place, it’s time to get to
appropriate health professionals who can provide the ongoing care necessary to bring about further recovery and
healing. This may take the form of targeted
nutritional support, massage and/or chiropractic care, herbs, physical therapy or homeopathy.
As judgment and decision-making are affected as part of
the injury, others may need to play an active role in seeing to it that these treatment options are found and
instigated. That’s because the very after-effects of the injury can play against the injured person finding
these options, making the appointments and remembering to show up for them.
The bottom line is that the sooner these are put in
place, the more likely it is that the person will be able to fully recover.
[i] Corrigan JD,
Selassie AW, Orman J A. “The epidemiology of traumatic brain injury”, Journal of Head Trauma Rehab. 2010;25 (2): 72
[ii] This information is part of the Glasgow Coma
Scale (GCS), which is based on verbal performance, motor responsiveness, and eye opening to the appropriate
stimuli. Source: CDC. Mass Casualties. Available at www.bt.cdc.gov/masscasualties.
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