Traumatic Brain Injury or TBI is in the news very much these days. NFL players and their families are suing the league for damages (literally), the recent film ‘Concussion’ with Will Smith as well as complications due to brain injuries and concussions in the NHL, competitive ice skating and many other sports. TBI is also a common occurrence in motor vehicle accidents and falls. Also common among soldiers and military personnel that have experienced battle.
Understanding concussions and brain injuries is a very complex undertaking. Concussions are usually defined by the injured party not losing consciousness or losing consciousness briefly. While brain injuries are considered more severe because often consciousness is lost for an extended amount of time. Severity of these injuries can be easily checked via the Glasgow Coma Scale available as an app for a mobile phone. In all cases of head trauma whether unconscious or not, should always be checked by a doctor.
The brain does not sit flush to the skull. It actually sits suspended in a jello like substance and when an individual receives a severe blow to the head the brain is often pushed to the opposite side of the skull from where the blow occurred, this is called a coup-contracoup injury. For example, an individual may be checked heavily in a hockey game on his/her right forehead but experience side effects like pain or balance or memory issues due to the brain sloshing around inside the skull suspended in the jelly like substance. Pinpointing injuries and their effects is not exact as there are so many variables.
A very simplistic analysis of brain injury survivors may have multiple areas of the brain affected from one significant blow. As with the example above, the front of the brain, commonly known as the forehead area is often referred to as the “Executive Centre” and is responsible for organization of general activities. An injury to this part of the brain can cause confusion with everyday tasks like paying bills or making a sandwich. This injury may cause damage to the ‘Olfactory Glands’ directly behind the eyes and nose thus effecting a person’s sense of smell and taste.
The complexity of the brain can result in a complexity of damages. Things that may seem obvious like memory loss may be further complicated by injury causing a loss of awareness relative to one’s place in a room or the common ‘left-side absence’ many brain injury survivors experience. Imagine having to arrive everywhere 20 minutes early in order to ‘calibrate’ one’s surroundings and the need to do this whenever one moves to a new setting.
While these are a few of the results of brain injury, things like fatigue play a huge part in the life of every survivor and will be discussed more fully in upcoming articles.