What Is a Brain Injury?A brain injury, more formally referred to as a traumatic brain injury (TBI), occurs when the normal function of the brain is disrupted “by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head, or penetrating head injury,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Brain injuries range in severity from mild TBIs, also called concussions, to severe TBIs, which might render a victim comatose or in a permanent vegetative state. Motorcyclists, especially those who don't wear helmets, face a high risk for brain injuries when an accident occurs. It's not uncommon for the impact of an accident, especially one at high speeds, to throw a biker from their motorcycle, causing them to strike their head on the ground.
Types of Brain Injuries Caused by Motorcycle AccidentsMedical professionals distinguish between five different types of TBIs, each with its own challenges. You might have experienced one or more of these during your motorcycle accident.
ConcussionA concussion is the most common type of TBI. Although mild concussions may heal, many don't, and serious concussions can leave a motorcycle accident victim with a lifetime of difficulties. When a biker experiences a direct blow to their head or sudden movement during the impact of an accident, the likely result is a concussion. Concussions can cause permanent damage, but many also heal after a few months or a few years of treatment.
ContusionDuring a motorcycle accident, bikers who experience a direct impact to the head risk a contusion. This is a fancy name for a bruise, but it indicates bleeding on the brain. One common cause for surgery after a brain injury in a motorcycle accident is when doctors need to remove large contusions that are putting pressure on the brain.
Coup-contrecoup InjuryA coup-contrecoup brain injury occurs when you have contusions on both sides of your brain. If you hit your head hard enough during your accident, the force causes a contusion upon impact, but your also brain slams into the other side of your skull, causing a second contusion.
Diffuse Axonal InjuryDiffuse axonal injuries are common in traffic accidents because of the strong force of impact, especially at high speeds. These injuries occur when your head moves but your brain doesn't, causing nerve tissue throughout your brain to tear as your brain lags behind the movement. When the nerve tissue tears, certain brain chemicals are released, causing further injury. These torn nerves interrupt normal brain function and can lead to permanent brain damage, including a temporary or permanent coma or vegetative state. If you were comatose after your motorcycle accident, it's highly likely you suffered a diffuse axonal injury. The impairment that comes with this type of injury varies greatly based on exactly which nerves were damaged in the brain.
Penetration InjuryA penetration injury occurs when a sharp object breaks the skin and skull and goes into the brain, taking hair, skin, and bone fragments with it. These types of injuries are not as common in motorcycle accidents as the others listed above. If you experienced a penetration injury during your accident, it was likely because your head landed on something sharp or a fragment from the automobile penetrated your head. Accidents involving high speeds are more likely to create the conditions for a penetration injury than those that occur at slower speeds.
Recognizing a Brain Injury After a Motorcycle AccidentIf you were fortunate enough to walk away from a motorcycle accident, you still may have suffered a brain injury, even if it has been days or weeks since your accident. Some brain injuries don't immediately show symptoms. If you or any of your loved ones notice any of the following symptoms, you need to head to the emergency room as soon as possible. Ignoring them could have fatal consequences. Symptoms that may indicate a brain injury include:
- Headache, especially one that continues to get worse without relief.
- Feeling weak.
- Numbness in your hands, legs, fingers, or toes.
- Trouble with coordination, almost as if you feel intoxicated.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Trouble with speech, especially slurring.
- Extreme drowsiness and lethargy.
- Victim doesn't wake up from sleeping.
- Loss of consciousness.
- Pupils are different sizes when you look into the victim's eyes.
- Seizures or convulsions.
- Amnesia to the extent that the victim doesn't remember family or friends, places they frequent, or cannot remember the day or year.
- Any unusual behavior, meaning that the victim acts differently from how they normally behave.
The Impact of Brain Injuries on Motorcycle Accident VictimsBrain injuries can cause temporary and permanent complications for those who suffer them in a motorcycle accident. The CDC and medical professionals who study the impact of brain injuries categorize the effects into four broad areas. If you or a loved one has suffered a brain injury in a motorcycle accident, you might notice or experience some of these difficulties:
Challenges Affecting ThinkingAfter suffering a brain injury, some victims struggle with complications that impact their ability to think. Examples include difficulty learning new things and the inability to recall things from long-term or short-term memory. Brain injury victims also sometimes struggle with logical reasoning and might seem irrational at times. They can also have difficulty making decisions.
Challenges Affecting SensationsBrain injuries can also impact a person's senses. After suffering a brain injury in a motorcycle accident, you might have experienced double vision or varying levels of blindness. Some TBI victims also feel numbness throughout their body or might feel dull or excruciating pain. Other effects can include loss of taste, a continuous bitter or metallic taste in the mouth, hearing loss, and ringing in the ears.
Challenges Affecting LanguageDepending on which part of the brain has been injured, those who suffer a TBI might also have difficulties with speech and language. Some victims might not be able to speak because they can't form the words or they may no longer be able to read or write. A TBI can erase all of the things a person learned throughout their life related to language. Victims might also hear but not comprehend other people's speech or struggle to understand even simple concepts. A brain injury can also impact expression to the extent that a victim might feel a certain way but be unable to express their feelings to doctors, family, and friends.
Challenges Affecting EmotionsIf you've noticed you feel different or your loved one seems to have a different personality, it might be a result of a traumatic brain injury. Accidents can have a psychological impact, causing depression and anxiety due to the difficulty of coping with an injury, including financial and emotional stress. A brain injury can also cause a real chemical change in the brain, causing victims to act out of character, behave aggressively towards those they love, or display signs of anxiety or depression.
Living With a Brain Injury After a Motorcycle AccidentDoctors approach treating a brain injury depending on the severity of the injury and the extent of the resulting damage. Those who suffer concussions must allow their brain to rest and can treat pain with over-the-counter products. Doctors will usually advise victims to restrict their activities for a few months, and sometimes longer. During recovery, those with concussions need to keep an eye out for previously listed symptoms that might be related. The biggest danger for those who have a concussion after a motorcycle accident is getting another concussion. Often, victims recover quickly after one concussion, but recovery slows with subsequent concussions. This means not only should you stay off your motorcycle, but avoid any sports activities, too. Those who have moderate to severe concussions might also experience other symptoms that may seem unrelated such as weight loss, weight gain, fatigue, dry skin, impotence, changes in menstruation, and hair loss. A traumatic brain injury can impact glands in the body over time and lead to hormonal imbalances, which can result in some of the above symptoms. When a person suffers a severe traumatic brain injury resulting in the loss of brain and body function, doctors might prescribe cognitive rehabilitation therapy (CRT) to help the victim regain function. CRT is not a one-size-fits-all treatment for a brain injury, because each person who suffers a TBI has a different experience. Instead, CRT includes personalized training to help a TBI victim learn how to compensate for cognitive changes, including memory and problem solving skills.
The Financial Impact of a Brain InjuryBrain injuries are notorious for being one of the most expensive types of injuries. They come with a large financial burden that can devastate a household, sometimes well into or even after recovery. Economic costs you might be facing after a brain injury from a motorcycle accident include:
- Medical expenses. If you suffered a TBI, your medical costs might include ambulance and emergency services, hospitalization, diagnostic imaging of your brain, follow-up visits for continued symptoms, pain medication, and in the most severe cases, surgery.
- Rehabilitation expenses. With the loss of brain function, many TBI victims must visit specialists to regain function. This can include sessions with physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, and behavioral therapists.
- Long-term Nursing Care. Depending on the extent of the brain injury, a victim might have to remain in long-term nursing care for weeks, months, years, or indefinitely. Even when released, victims might need in-home nursing care to help them transition.
- Home modifications. The impact of a brain injury might require families to build a wheelchair ramp, install handrails, add safety features to hot water faucets, and install extra locks, doors, and alarms. All these protective changes can make a home more accessible for the victim, but even the least expensive fixes can add up to thousands of dollars.
- Replacement services. Before a TBI from a motorcycle accident, the victim might have had several household responsibilities. When a brain injury victim cannot contribute, it puts more pressure on other members of their family, who often need to hire outside help. Examples include cleaning services, lawn care services, grocery shopping or meal delivery service, and childcare services.
- Lost wages. Suffering a brain injury usually means time away from work, and the most severe injuries can prevent a victim from ever returning to their job. Lost wages and the potential of future lost wages can be one of the most devastating financial impacts for brain injury victims and their families. Although disability payments might help, they will not replace a full income.