Traumatic brain injuries have emerged as a significant health concern in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 1.7 million people in the U.S. suffer a TBI each year. Most of these injuries – approximately 75 percent – are mild-to-moderate concussions. Some experts estimate the annual costs of TBIs in the U.S., including both direct medical costs and lost work productivity, to be in the tens of billions of dollars.
Any significant blow to the head can produce a mild traumatic brain injury, which many victims may not even realize occurred. Mild traumatic brain injuries, or TBIs, may affect each victim differently, depending on the severity of the impact, the location of the injury and other factors. It is common for these injuries to take days or even weeks to cause any symptoms, which may make it appear as though a victim suddenly behaves very strangely.
If you recently suffered a blow to the head on the job, you may have a serious injury that requires proper diagnosis and treatment. It is wise to begin by seeing your doctor for a medical examination. With proper diagnosis and treatment, you can work toward recovery and collect important documentation that validates your injury. This can serve as a strong basis for a workers’ compensation claim.
Common Symptoms of a Mild TBI
Mild TBIs may produce a number of symptoms in victims, including physical and cognitive symptoms. Mayo Clinic identifies several common physical and mental symptoms including, not limited to:
· Loss of Consciousness
· Blurry vision
· Nausea or Vomiting
· Difficulty with Speech
· Difficulty with Sleeping
· Difficulty with Memory or Concentration
· Tiredness or Fatigue
· Changes in Mood
· Light or Sound Sensitivity
· Changes in Taste or Smell
· Ringing in the Ears
While these are not the only symptoms a victim may experience, they are some of the most common and most concerning. These symptoms can significantly impact an employee’s ability to perform their work, and may even put others in danger.
Some of the most frustrating or frightening symptoms are cognitive changes. These symptoms are more complex, and may look like bizarre, concerning behavior to colleagues, friends and family who do not realize a victim suffered a brain injury.
Often, a victim may find that they cannot complete common tasks in their job, or that they cannot learn a new process that seems simple to understand. In addition to this frustration, the victim may react in surprising, volatile ways that may concern them and others.
Another common symptom of a mild TBI is loss of context understanding. Victims may often misread things or misinterpret what others say to them, not because they lost any vocabulary, but because they don’t recognize contextual meaning.
This quickly builds up conflict and tension in relationships, both at work and elsewhere. It is crucial for those around a TBI victim to understand that these changes are symptoms of a real injury that requires treatment and time to heal.
One of the hardest cognitive changes to understand and cope with is a personality change.
Workers Who Suffer a Brain Injury may See Personality Change
There are a number of ways that a brain injury can affect personality. And while scientists and researchers are still not sure how everything is connected, here are some of the things they do know about the frontal lobe if damaged:
· One can lose the ability to organize and multi-task
· One might not be able to control impulsive behavior
· One might not be able to filter verbal responses to situations
From a general perspective, a brain injury can cause more frustration for someone who may not understand why daily tasks are more difficult. This frustration can be amplified, especially if the victim used to have more control prior to the brain injury. In a workplace, this type of change in personality can impact performance reviews and affect the way others view the individual.
There are some ways for brain injury survivors to regain control over some of their lost functions. Some have tried relearning behavior strategies to help control impulsiveness. Others have tried certain medications to control behavior. It is unclear what will work for whom in a specific situation, but understanding the impact this type of injury can have on personality early on could help reduce much of the stress and frustration that is likely to accompany the injury.
Be Aware of the Risks of TBI from Auto Accidents
One of the most severe injuries an individual can sustain when involved in a motor vehicle accident is a traumatic brain injury. For people in the United States under 45 years of age, TBIs are actually the primary cause of death or disability. Approximately two million people in the U.S. sustain a brain injury of some type annually.
Tragically, around 100,000 people lose their lives as a result of a TBI every year. Another 500,000 people become disabled due to a traumatic brain injury annually.
The majority of traumatic brain injuries – 51 percent specifically – are caused by motor vehicle accidents.
Caring for those who have sustained a traumatic brain injury is costly. Each year, over $30 billion is spent across the country to provide medical treatment and rehabilitative care to those who have sustained a traumatic brain injury. The damage caused by a TBI varies in every case. Individuals may require a wide range of care following such an injury, including the involvement of physical therapists, neuropsychologists and speech therapists.
Returning to Work After Suffering Brain Trauma
Traumatic brain injuries can make it difficult or even impossible for people to earn a living. Depending on the severity of the injury and where the injury occurred in the brain, people may experience various disabilities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, traumatic brain injuries can affect a person’s ability to concentrate, focus, organize, problem-solve and plan activities. Brain trauma can also result in mood and/or personality changes. Workers may find themselves feeling anxious, depressed or suffering from a number of other mood disorders.
The National Institutes of Health conducted a comprehensive review of 49 studies that looked at the rate at which people suffering from traumatic brain injuries returned to work. They found that 40.7 percent of people with TBI returned to work one year after the injury date. Approximately 40.8 percent of people suffering from TBI returned to work two years after the injury date.
Researchers also found that a number of people who went back to work after sustaining a brain injury were not able to go back to the job that they had prior to the workplace incident. In some cases, people who worked full-time prior to their injury were only able to come back as part-time employees.
Workers with Brain Injuries may be at Higher Risk of Stroke
New research was recently published that shows that the risk of stroke is greatly increased when someone has a traumatic brain injury. Researchers found that the link between stroke and traumatic brain injury is quite strong and is as important as the link between stroke and its highest risk factor, high blood pressure. Though more research needs to be done on brain injuries and strokes, this could be an important piece of information for Colorado workers who suffer head injuries.
There are many ways in which someone can injure his or her head at work and there are many individuals in the Denver region who report some kind of head or brain injury while at work. Though many of them use workers’ compensation benefits to take time off and recover from their head injuries, this research could potentially elongate their benefits if they then suffer a stroke.
Researchers believe that the increase in the risk of a stroke could be attributed to many of the injuries that are associated with a traumatic brain injury. These often include:
· Fractured skull
· Bleeding in the brain
· Blood clotting
· Other cardiac injuries
For an injury to be compensable under the workers’ compensation program, it has to have happened at work. While it is fairly clear that someone who is struck on the head at work and then develops a traumatic brain injury was injured on the job, suffering a stroke might not be. If more information is uncovered about the connection between traumatic brain injury and stroke, however, there could be a greater chance that someone will be able to link it to his or her initial head injury.
Strokes and brain injuries are incredibly common. In fact, they are two of the leading causes of disabilities in adults under the age of 65.
Effects of Traumatic Brain Injuries May Take Years to Heal
Until relatively recently, doctors believed that the effects of moderate TBIs – including headaches, dizziness, changes in mood, depression and cognitive difficulties – would dissipate over time as patients rested and received proper treatment. New studies indicate, however, that the effects of traumatic brain injuries can last for years and, in some cases, may never go away.
Researchers at the University of Oklahoma, in conjunction with the headache clinic at the Oklahoma City Veterans Affairs Medical Center, studied 500 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, all of whom had suffered a TBI during deployment. Doctors asked the patients to describe both the incidence and severity of common TBI after-effects, including headaches, and divided the data according to whether they had suffered injury five to eight years or up to four years prior to the start of the study.
Unfortunately, researchers discovered that effects of traumatic brain injuries did not dissipate over time. Among those who had suffered a TBI up to four years before the study, nearly 50 percent reported mild-to-moderate headaches and 46 percent reported severe headaches. Among those who suffered a TBI five to eight years prior to the study, 45 percent reported mild-to-moderate headaches and 51 percent reported severe headaches. The numbers were roughly the same for all other TBI symptoms, as well.
Example of a Head Injury that Lead to a Coma and Long Recovery
One young man took a hard hit to his head; he ignored it because it didn’t seem serious initially. Not long after, he took another seemingly light blow to the head. The second blow ruptured blood vessels, causing him to collapse. When he woke up after a three-week coma, life had changed forever.
Many things that he knew before the brain injury, including the very basics like talking and walking, were gone. Everything that had been wiped out by the brain injury had to be relearned.
He had to start over, beginning his learning from a third-grade level. With a lot of hard work, he has made enough physical and mental strides in the last few years to be able to golf, ski, travel and give inspirational speeches.
Example of a Head Injury at a Construction Site
It was an injury that one neurosurgeon described as being a 9.9 on a scale of one to 10. The seriousness of the traumatic brain injury one construction worker sustained was readily apparent, but what has been surprising is that he has made a near complete recovery. While this young crane operator was fortunate, he still has some way before he will be able to return to work.
The accident happened in the early morning at the construction site the young man and several other employees were working at to build a bridge, a construction site that could easily be found in the Denver area. The young man had been working with another crane operator to lift a 52-ton concrete girder in tandem, their third of the day, when his crane crumpled, throwing him from the crane’s cab.
Fortunately for the crane operator, one of the safety operators at the site was able to get emergency medical responders to the site of the accident quickly. They rushed him to a hospital, but he was quickly showing signs of brain death. Doctors took emergency procedures, putting him into a coma, inducing temporary paralysis, removing sections of the skull to allow for brain swelling and other tactics to save the man’s life. After seven months of surgeries, procedures and rehabilitation, the man is now largely recovered, but he still has some way to go.
Example of a Head Injury in a Roofing Accident
A young man had been working as a roofer. But one day while on the job, he fell more than 30 feet from the roof onto the ground below. He was severely injured and suffered a serious brain injury, requiring surgery that removed part of his skull.
Doctors gave him little chance of living.
But even with the odds against him, he continued to fight for his life. When he awoke from a long coma, the brain injury had impacted a number of things: his memory, mobility, and ability to process things normally. His family filed a lawsuit against several parties that were involved with the roofing job the day of the accident.
This young man has been working hard at his rehabilitation. Though it has been a remarkable recovery – the young man has moved into his own apartment – the journey to recovery is still a long one.
Support from Others can Help Brian Injury Victims Recover
A key factor in promoting recovery from a brain injury such as the one the man endured is social support. According to brain injury research, social acceptance can play a large role in helping brain injury victims become contributing members of society once again.
Whether that is in a work or social environment, knowing that those around you are supportive can help the recovery process immensely.
Protect Your Rights Today
Filing a workers’ compensation claim after a head injury may seem straightforward, but some employers or insurers complicate the process or choose to offer unacceptable benefits on a claim. In order to keep your rights secure and help seek complete compensation for your losses, it is wise to build a legal strategy using strong legal tools and guidance so you can focus on your recovery.