Car accidents are one of the most common causes of head injuries. In some cases, head injuries in car accidents can occur when victims strike their heads on an object in the vehicle, such as the steering wheel or windshield, resulting in a brain injury. In other cases, the auto accident victim's head can be struck by a moving object during the motor vehicle collision. Even car accidents that occur at a relatively low rate of speed can result in serious head injuries. Some auto accident injury victims may not have any visible external injury that indicates head trauma. As a result, head injuries from auto accidents may be difficult to diagnose.
Injuries involving the head can have lifelong effects on the victim's ability to work and carry out his or her daily life. The car accident victim's cognitive abilities, coordination, and memory may all be altered as a result of the head trauma. Headaches, paralysis, weakness, nausea, and sensory problems are additional physical issues associated with head injuries.
Types of Head Injuries
Listed below are several types of head injuries that may affect auto accident victims.
- Cerebral Contusions (Bruising of the Brain)
- Edema and Hematoma
- Diffuse Axonal Injury
A trauma-induced alteration of an individual's alert state is known as a concussion. A car accident victim with a concussion may be unable to concentrate, appear confused or disoriented, or completely lose consciousness and fall down. Concussions can range in severity from mild to critical.
When a moving head comes to a quick stop, the brain continues its movement, striking the interior of the skull and resulting in contusions. Contusions often affect two areas in the event of a head injury: the area where the head was directly impacted (the coup injury) and the area where the brain bounced against the skull (the contrecoup injury).
When the brain bounces against the skull as a result of the impact of a car crash, it often results in the twisting and/or tearing of blood vessels and other brain matter. This can result in edema (swelling of the brain) and hematomas (bleeding in the brain). Both edema and hematoma can result in permanent brain damage.
Long nerve fibers called axons are the parts of the nerve cells that allow neurons to send messages. In instances where serious whiplash occurs, the axons can be stretched so much that they are damaged. This type of brain injury, known as diffuse axonal injury, often occurs toward the center of the brain where axons are subjected to maximal stretching.