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Traumatic Brain Injury Lawyers

What Is Traumatic Brain Injury?

If a doctor came into the room and said you had suffered a traumatic brain injury, what would your reaction be? Would you be terrified? Would you be relieved it wasn’t something worse? Would you sit there staring blankly at the doctor waiting for him to describe what on earth he/she meant by that?

Despite most of us having heard the phrase, we probably are not real clear as to what constitutes a traumatic brain injury. To many, hearing the term “Traumatic Brain Injury” leaves them with images of someone lying comatose in bed or someone who has lost the ability to speak, read, or interact. Others simply think it is a synonym for a concussion. In fact, many times, when we ask a potential client if they have been diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury, we get responses such as, “No, I never lost consciousness” or “I wasn’t knocked out.” While a concussion does signify a traumatic brain injury, a TBI is not diagnosed based solely on whether one suffered a concussion. So, what is a traumatic brain injury?

Despite all of the attention brain injuries have received over the last several years, it may come as a surprise that there is no one uniform definition for a “traumatic brain injury.” Not having one standard definition has led to problems with researching the frequency, duration, and complications associated with these injuries. While there is no one specific definition, the Centers for Disease Control definition is commonly used:

A TBI is caused by a bump, blow, or a jolt to the head that disrupts the normal function of the brain. Not all blows or jolts to the head result in a TBI.

While common, the CDC definition is not very specific. It tells us how they are commonly caused but only generally tells us they occur when an incident “disrupts the normal function of the brain.” What does that mean? In a recently updated article published on Medscape, attorney and physician Segun Dawodu provides us with a more detailed definition:

Traumatic brain injury is a nondegenerative, noncongential insult to the brain from an external mechanical force, possibly leading to permanent or temporary impairment of cognitive, physical, and psychosocial functions, with an associated diminished or altered state of consciousness.

This definition tells us, similar to the CDC definition, that a TBI occurs due to some type of force event (not from aging, disease, birth defect, stroke, etc), but then goes on to add that it MAY lead to problems with cognition (process of thinking), physical issues (balance, walking, blurred vision, etc), and psychosocial (how social factors relate with individual thought and behavior). Dr. Dawodu provides more detail into what disrupting the normal function of the brain can look like than the CDC definition. Another informative definition comes from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke:

Traumatic brain injury (TBI), a form of acquired brain injury, occurs when a sudden trauma causes damage to the brain. TBI can result when the head suddenly and violently hits an object, or when an object pierces the skull and enters brain tissue.
This definition brings in a new term, acquired brain injury, which is similar to the first two definitions above. It simply means that the injury is not hereditary, due to aging or wear, or any other non-traumatic reason. It also gives us some examples of a closed head injury (when nothing goes through the skull and into the brain, the brain is injured by striking the skull) as well an open-head injury (such as when something pierces the brain through the skull).

So by looking at these three often used definitions, we can say that a traumatic brain injury is caused by some force applied to the brain, either by an object or by the brain hitting the inside of the skull, and this injury causes the brain not to function as it should in any number of ways which can affect our cognition, physical abilities, or behaviors.

Many authors/physicians choose to then classify the severity of a TBI by labeling them as “mild”, “moderate” or “severe.” Diagnosing and classifying traumatic brain injuries can be based on many different factors, which we will look at in the next blog post.



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