Why TBI Goes Untreated: A Complex Illness With Uncertain Outcomes

November 27, 2022

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), A Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), unlike other brain injuries (such as a stroke, tumor, or illness), typically results from a violent blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating injury to the brain.

Statistically, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that annually, roughly 1.5 million Americans survive a traumatic brain injury, and among those 230,000 are hospitalized. In the year 2000, there were 10,958 TBI diagnoses. By 2015, there were 344,030 diagnoses. This is likely because awareness of TBIs has spread, and individuals who have suffered from TBIs are recognizing the symptoms and seeking treatment.

Types of TBIs include:

  • Concussion: this is considered a mild TBI (mTBI); it can cause transient altered mental status, which ranges from confusion to loss of consciousness. This cannot be properly diagnosed without a CT scan or MRI scan
  • Extra-axial Hematoma: This usually results from brain bleeding or a fracture (epidural hematoma) or from bleeding of a bridging vein (subdural hematoma)
  • Contusion: referred to as “bruising of the brain” and typically occur at the site of impact on the head
  • Traumatic Subarachnoid Hemorrhage (SAH): Most commonly caused by trauma and results from the tearing of small capillaries which leak blood into the brain
  • Diffuse Axonal Injury (DAI): typically mild to moderate TBI, and typically results from shearing, stretching, or twisting injuries to neuronal axons.

Long-Term Effects of TBIs

The long-term effects of TBIs can be devastating, which is why it is vitally important to act quickly and receive treatment when suffering a head injury. Even for people that received inpatient rehabilitation services for a primary diagnosis of TBI, the CDC reports the following results:

  • 22% died
  • 30% became worse
  • 22% stayed the same
  • 26% improved

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is highly associated with victims of TBIs. Even further, the CDC outlines scary long-term negative effects of TBIs.

Why are TBIs Going Untreated?

TBIs can vary wildly on a case-by-case basis, and can have wide-ranging physical and psychological effects. According to the Mayo Clinic, the signs and symptoms sometimes appear immediately after the traumatic event, while other times they may appear days or weeks later.

According to the FDA, a diagnosis of a TBI requires a medical exam and imaging tests. A medical exam typically includes a neurological exam to evaluate thinking, motor function, sensory function, coordination, eye movement, and reflexes. Imaging tests include CT scans and MRI scans, but still cannot detect all TBIs under the current technology. The FDA continues to work with the research and clinical community to develop better-designed tests and clinical studies so that new medical products can be developed. Importantly, “more sensitive and objective ways to diagnose and detect mild TBI are needed.”

Therefore it is important to understand the symptoms of TBIs so that you can consult a medical doctor if you notice the effects of a potential TBI.

What are the Symptoms?

For Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries, like a concussion, the symptoms may include:

Physical symptoms

  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fatigue or drowsiness
  • Problems with speech
  • Dizziness or loss of balance

Sensory symptoms

  • Sensory problems, such as blurred vision, ringing in the ears, a bad taste in the mouth or changes in the ability to smell
  • Sensitivity to light or sound

Cognitive, behavioral, or mental symptoms

  • Loss of consciousness for a few seconds to a few minutes
  • No loss of consciousness, but a state of being dazed, confused, or disoriented
  • Memory or concentration problems
  • Mood changes or mood swings
  • Feeling depressed or anxious
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Sleeping more than usual

For Moderate to Severe Traumatic Brain Injuries, the symptoms may include any of the signs and symptoms of a mild injury, as well as the following symptoms:

Physical symptoms

  • Loss of consciousness from several minutes to hours
  • Persistent headache or headache that worsens
  • Repeated vomiting or nausea
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Dilation of one or both pupils of the eyes
  • Clear fluids draining from the nose or ears
  • Inability to awaken from sleep
  • Weakness or numbness in fingers and toes
  • Loss of coordination

Cognitive or mental symptoms

  • Profound confusion
  • Agitation, combativeness, or other unusual behavior
  • Slurred speech
  • Coma and other disorders of consciousness

Children’s symptoms

Infants and young children with brain injuries might not be able to communicate headaches, sensory problems, confusion, and similar symptoms. In a child with traumatic brain injury, you may observe:

  • Change in eating or nursing habits
  • Unusual or easy irritability
  • Persistent crying and inability to be consoled
  • Change in ability to pay attention
  • Change in sleep habits
  • Seizures
  • Sad or depressed mood
  • Drowsiness
  • Loss of interest in favorite toys or activities

Challenges of Treating TBIs

As stated above, TBIs can be difficult to detect or recognize, meaning that many people likely suffer the short or long-term effects of TBIs without ever being diagnosed or treated.

For those that are diagnosed, treatment can come with significant costs. The cost for relatively new specialized MRI imaging is steep. Further, the cost of being unable to work during inpatient treatment is too great for some families.

Who is at Greater Risk for TBIs?

TBIs can occur in a wide range of careers and circumstances, but people in certain dangerous professions are more likely than the general community to sustain a TBI in the workplace.

People often associate athletes, or more specifically – football players, with an increased risk of TBI. This is certainly true. Boston University CTE Center found that a staggering 99% of former NFL football players suffered from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), as well as 91% of college football players and 21% of high school football players.

While this may seem like the most obvious profession that leads to TBIs, other more common professions carry significant risks.

Construction Workers

Construction workers face dangerous risks from:

  • Equipment failures
  • Lack of safety equipment
  • Building / structural failures
  • Crane accidents
  • Falling from heights
  • Falling objects

Construction accidents occur frequently, and it is important to understand your rights as an employee if you are injured on the job. Construction accident lawyer has experience dealing with TBIs and other injuries that occur as a result of safety failures on construction sites.

Maritime Workers

Maritime workers, such as commercial fishermen, transportation vessel workers, or offshore oil rig workers, face significant risks from:

  • Severe weather conditions and ocean conditions
  • Slips and falls from wet/slippery conditions
  • Capsized vessels
  • Basket transfer injuries
  • Collisions with equipment
  • Collisions with other vessels
  • Crane and hoisting equipment injuries
  • Dropped objects
  • Equipment pinches / severed limbs
  • Explosions and fires
  • Falls from height
  • Broken bones
  • Helicopter crashes
  • Lifting injuries

Workers that are injured on the job as commercial fishermen, oil rig workers, or other workers out at sea are protected by general maritime laws and The Jones Act. These laws are specifically designed to protect seafaring workers. Getting treatment for a TBI can be complex, so it is important to speak with experienced maritime accident attorneys when evaluating your injuries.

Oilfield workers

Oilfield workers also face extreme conditions and dangerous risks while on the job. Some of these include:

  • Explosions and fires
  • Dropped objects
  • Falls from height
  • Basket transfer injuries
  • Crane and hoisting equipment injuries

If you or a loved one are seriously injured in the oilfield, contact an experienced oilfield injury lawyer as soon as possible, we help injured workers nationwide.

Commercial Drivers or Truckers, and Other Drivers on the Road

Commercial Drivers are more likely to experience an auto accident than other drivers on the road. This is due to the amount of time spent driving while on the job. Auto accidents are a major contributor to the causes of TBIs due to:

  • High speeds
  • Lack of attention
  • Defective safety products
  • Overworked drivers

If you are injured in an auto accident as a commercial driver or as a regular citizen on the road, it is important to speak with experienced trucking accident attorneys to quickly evaluate your injuries and potential claims.

What Should I Do if I am Injured at Work?

If you suffer a TBI or other injury while working in the oilfield, it is important to consult a reputable work injury lawyer immediately. The three main goals should be in mind when investigating an accident:

  1. Get to the bottom of what happened
  2. Make sure it does not happen to someone else
  3. Get enough compensation to provide for your care and your families, and if necessary, punish the companies or people who did wrong

This is what our firm does. Injuries occur all too often as a result of negligence. To recover from a serious injury or a loved one’s death on-the-job, you must typically prove that a company or person that was involved in the incident typically must have done something that was not “reasonable” under the circumstances. Whether someone acted “unreasonably” may not be obvious at first. In many cases, our personal injury lawyers and experts that we hire uncover a violation of industry standards or a defective product that a client may not have known about when they first hired us.

Furthermore, our experience with other cases has led us to understand the importance of detection and treatment of TBIs. TBIs and some other injuries may not be apparent at first and may worsen over time. If you do not visit the right doctors and experts, these injuries can go undiagnosed and untreated. We are experienced in helping our clients find the right doctors and experts to make sure that such conditions are not missed. If you sense that you or a loved one has suffered a TBI or any other injury while on the job, contact our lawyers at Morrow & Sheppard LLP for a free consultation.

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