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What Are Coup and Contrecoup Brain Injuries?

Coup and contrecoup (pronounced “coo” and “contra coo”) refer to a type of head injury (traumatic brain injury) and reference where the injury occurred relative to the point of impact. A coup injury occurs on the brain directly under the point of impact.  A contrecoup injury occurs on the opposite side of the brain from where the impact occurred. Coup and contrecoup injuries are a type of traumatic brain injury that results in the bruising of the brain.

Most brain injuries are the result of an outside force, meaning something comes in contact with the head. This impact, and the resulting injuries, come in three different types:

  • coup
  • contrecoup
  • coup-contrecoup.

[Common Misspellings: coo contracoo, contracoup, coo injury, coop injury, contracoop, contracoo, contrecoo, conracoo brain injury]

It’s important to note that these injuries are considered non-penetrating injuries. Coup and contrecoup injuries are most commonly caused by a fall, blunt force trauma, a sports injury, or the force associated with a car or motorcycle accident. Before we move on with the difference between these three terms, it may help to familiarize yourself with some more common terms associated with TBI.

What Is the Difference Between Coup and Contrecoup Injuries?

  • Coup – (pronounced coo) injuries are present on the brain directly below the site of the impact. The surface bruises, cuts, contusions, or other marks can help to pinpoint the location. Trauma can range from relatively mild to severe including bruising, swelling, and hemorrhaging of the brain.
  • Contrecoup – (pronounced “contra coo”) injuries affect the side of the brain opposite from where the impact occurred. They are often overlooked or misdiagnosed because of their location. Contrecoup occurs when a force or blow causes the brain to strike the side of the skull opposite from the point of impact. These injuries often occur in motor vehicle rollover accidents and motorcycle crashes. If not identified, they pose long-term risks for victims.
  • Coup-Contrecoup – injuries are the most severe affecting both sides of the brain. The damage occurs to the side under the impact and the opposite side when the brain strikes the skull. Coup-contrecoup injuries are often misdiagnosed resulting in one area being treated and the other overlooked. Permanent brain damage risks are very high with coup-contrecoup injuries.

ARROW represents impact point and RED CIRCLE represent injury point

Never Ignore a Blow to the Head

Traumatic brain injuries of any type are serious. There are hundreds of symptoms and combinations of symptoms that may be present at the time of the injury or may not manifest for days or even weeks following the trauma. If you ever receive a blow to the head, other than just a bump, do not attempt to shake it off and play or work through it. You may have a serious injury and are risking permanent damage if you ignore it. Even ignoring a mild concussion can be fatal if a second injury occurs to the same area prior to healing. If it hurts for more than a couple of minutes, if you feel nausea, experience vomiting, dizziness, blurred vision, affected speech, confusion, or any other abnormal feeling, seek medical attention immediately. Just as with a stroke, minutes count.

Coup-contrecoup injuries are serious and should be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible. These injuries can cause hematomas (brain bleeding), brain swelling, and problems with the flow of cerebrospinal fluid which surrounds and protects the brain. Blows to the head may also cause skull fragments to enter the brain tissue or place dangerous pressure on the brain.

Damage Caused by Coup and Contrecoup Injury

The most common form of coup-contrecoup injuries are behind the forehead in the frontal lobe and underneath the temples in the temporal lobe. These injuries can result in problems with decision-making, speaking, and language comprehension. Depending on the injury, a traumatic brain injury victim may also experience impaired concentration, memory loss, trouble swallowing, loss of balance and coordination, muscle weakness, paralysis, and/or sensory changes.

Economic Damages

These effects of a coup-contrecoup injury can inflict severe damages and significantly reduce a person’s quality of life. This is especially true due to the fact that many coup-contrecoup injuries can cause permanent effects that can affect someone through the entirety of their life. Brain damage of any kind leads to some of the worst economic damages possible. The medical expenses for coup-contrecoup injuries are extensive because of the long-reaching debilitating effects they can have that require medication and therapy. Careers are often lost and income potential is ruined because of the disabilities that can be inflicted by a coup-contrecoup injury.

Non-Economic Damages

There are also the non-economic damages one can suffer because of a coup-contrecoup injury. Dealing with brain damage and disability inflicted by a traumatic brain injury like a coup contrecoup injury is painful. The mental anguish of these injuries can have a very negative effect on a person’s mental health not to mention their relationships, social lives, and enjoyment of life in general. All of these damages caused by a coup-contrecoup injury deserve compensation when they are suffered because of the negligent actions of a liable party.

[Click here for more details on TBI symptoms.] 

Contrecoup Concussion

The human brain is made of soft tissue and is protected by the skull and surrounding spinal fluid. These structures are there to safeguard the delicate organ. When a person is struck in the head, or their head is slammed forward like in a car accident, the impact can cause the brain to move around. If the impact is great enough, the brain can slam forward into the skull, and if the momentum continues, it can slam back into the opposite side of the skull. Think about it like water sloshing in a bucket. Once it hits the side of the bucket, the momentum carries it back in the other direction.

Coup and contrecoup injuries are strongly related to concussion injuries.

Concussions are often categorized as mild traumatic brain injury, but that just means they aren’t necessarily life-threatening. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t painful and don’t disrupt one’s life. After a concussion, your brain doesn’t function normally. This can cause a loss of vision, nausea, loss of balance, confusion, and unconsciousness.

Because a concussion, by definition, is a bruised or damaged brain, they are strongly related to coup contrecoup injury.

Treating Coup, Contrecoup, and Coup-Contrecoup Injuries

Treating the damage caused by a serious coup, contrecoup, and coup-contrecoup injuries is a battle of time and prevention since the injuries are usually irreversible. This means that doctors and surgeons will need to treat the injuries right away in order to prevent any further injury or worsening damage. Depending on the case, doctors may treat the injury with simple recovery methods like rest, employ medications to reduce symptoms, or even perform neurosurgery to decrease brain swelling or bleeding.

The Lifetime Cost of a TBI

The results of a traumatic brain injury can be catastrophic physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially. The cost of a TBI can be lost income for life totaling in the millions of dollars. There may be a lifetime of dealing with a permanent disability, rehabilitation, re-learning, career re-training, and dependency on others. In addition, there could be years of pain and suffering and severely depleted quality of life.

It is because of this long-term and debilitating damage that those harmed by coup-contrecoup injuries caused by others’ negligence are able to seek compensation. Personal injury claims can get you the compensation you need through settlements or court awards to contend with the severe damages inflicted by coup-contrecoup and other brain injury types. Car accidents, trip and falls, and on-the-job accidents can all be the source of coup-contrecoup injuries and can be caused by liable parties that may owe you restitution for their negligence. Consider speaking to a personal injury lawyer about your case and what legal options are available to you.

Seek an Experienced Florida Personal Injury Attorney

If you or a loved one suffered a cataclysmic brain injury due to an accident caused by negligence or malice, you need to speak with a personal injury attorney who is qualified to handle brain injury cases. A qualified brain injury attorney knows the true cost of your injury over a lifetime. The attorney will not tempt you with what seems like a lucrative settlement like many “settlement mills” do.

At Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA our brain injury lawyers are willing to fight relentlessly to gain the amount of cash that you truly deserve. Even if it means waging a court battle on your behalf. If you or someone you care about received a traumatic brain injury through the fault of another party, you owe it to yourself to call Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA for a free consultation. Do not hesitate as time can erase evidence and statutes of limitation may apply. Call our office at (727) 451-6900 or fill out a contact form online.

Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA

800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765

(727) 451-6900