During a motorcycle accident, many things often happen at the same time. Both body and brain may experience a great deal of trauma. While wearing a helmet can reduce many of the risks associated with traumatic brain injury in a motorcycle accident, it does not eliminate those risks.
During the Crash
During a motorcycle crash, the brain experiences a great deal of force. Normally, the brain sits in a cushion of fluid. That cushion helps protect the brain against many of the bumps and dings of everyday life. Thanks to that cushion, for example, you will not normally experience disorientation and confusion if you simply knock your head against a shelf while putting away items in your home.
In the moment of impact during a motorcycle crash, however, the brain may suffer enough force to slam it against the walls of the skull despite that protective cushion of fluid and even the additional protection offered by your helmet. Significant bruising, bleeding, and swelling may result from this injury.
Many motorcycle accident victims who suffer traumatic brain injury lose consciousness at the scene of the accident. In the case of severe traumatic brain injury, this may mean a significant, long-term loss of consciousness. With a minor TBI, on the other hand, victims may lose consciousness for only a short time.
Immediate Symptoms at the Scene of the Accident
While some victims lose consciousness immediately, others may not lose consciousness, or may not remember that they lost consciousness. Sometimes, motorcycle accident victims may quickly regain consciousness at the scene of the accident. However, they may show clear symptoms of traumatic brain injury, especially as swelling increases.
Many victims with traumatic brain injury do not appear to have visible injuries, especially if the motorcycle helmet protected them from abrasions and bruising. In fact, they may appear drunk as they move around the accident scene: slurring their words, acting inappropriately, or struggling to keep track of questions asked by first responders, for example. Victims may also show clear symptoms related to traumatic brain injury.
The adrenaline from a motorcycle accident can naturally cause some confusion or unusual behavior. Victims with traumatic brain injury, however, may feel very disoriented. They may not remember what happened: that they had a motorcycle accident at all, for example. Some victims may struggle to remember where the accident occurred. They may need to have simple things repeated for them several times, or they can’t focus on anything happening around them.
Many victims with traumatic brain injury struggle with memory loss. Immediately after a motorcycle accident, that may manifest as an inability to report what happened during the accident itself. Some victims with traumatic brain injury may never actually remember what led to the accident. They may also have trouble recalling what has been said to them or bringing to mind specific answers to questions, even if they already asked the question and received an answer.
Sometimes, victims with traumatic brain injury may experience a bad headache. This may start at the scene of the accident and continue through the recovery process. Victims may also note tunnel vision or ringing in the ears.
Nausea or Vomiting
In addition to physical symptoms centered around the head, some victims with traumatic brain injury suffer from severe nausea or vomiting due to their injuries. Nausea or vomiting may grow worse with movement, especially when moving the head.
The Aftermath of Traumatic Brain Injury
Traumatic brain injury often causes symptoms that linger long after the initial accident. Many victims find that the confusion caused by the immediate accident only begins the challenges they may face during the recovery process. Traumatic brain injury can cause a range of physical, mental, and emotional symptoms, depending on the severity of the injury and the part of the brain affected by the accident.
For many people, memory loss represents the primary symptom of traumatic brain injury. Movies and popular fiction have covered many TBI scenarios that include memory loss.
For victims, however, memory loss may not turn out as simple as just forgetting the past. Long-term memory loss can range from loss of the memories surrounding the motorcycle accident, which the victim may never fully recover, to loss of memories from long before the accident. Worse, for many victims, traumatic brain injury can cause the loss of short-term memories.
Losing short-term memory may mean that victims can no longer remember phone numbers after they receive them or that they may struggle to follow simple instructions. Many victims have trouble with remembering the locations of items or keeping track of more than a few items or instructions in sequence.
This loss of short-term memory can significantly impair victims’ ability to complete normal work responsibilities or even to take care of self-care tasks. For example, a victim might start to get ready for the day, only to forget whether he has brushed his hair, changed his shirt, or taken his medications. As a result, many victims with traumatic brain injury require a caregiver or apps to complete simple tasks and follow instructions.
Loss of Focus and Concentration
Traumatic brain injury can make it incredibly difficult to focus on the task at hand. For example, victims with traumatic brain injury may struggle to get through a simple work task: breaking down a stack of boxes or even putting a display out on the floor, for example. That loss of focus can also make it difficult for many motorcycle accident victims with traumatic brain injury to keep track of the activities they enjoy.
Without focus, for example, it can prove very difficult to read a book, follow the plot of a television show, or play a video game, especially one that relies on a complicated plot.
That loss of focus and concentration can make it very difficult for victims to return to work, but it can also make it difficult for them to take care of themselves at home. A victim with a traumatic brain injury might, for example, put a pot on the stove to boil, then promptly forget that he placed it there and go on to take care of something else. He might forget about items in the oven, causing a fire, or forget to finish tasks once he has begun them.
Creative Thinking Challenges
Many people work in professions that require them to think creatively every day. Unfortunately, traumatic brain injury after a motorcycle accident can substantially interfere with a victim’s ability to manage those creative thinking challenges. It can make it difficult, for example, to decide how to manage a scheduling conflict or how to deal with the challenge a customer has brought to the customer service counter.
Many victims with traumatic brain injury find that creative thinking, a higher-order processing skill, takes longer to return than many other gaps created by traumatic brain injury. TBI patients in fast-paced or creative professions may struggle even more with these losses.
Traumatic brain injury can cause devastating complications when it comes to simple communication. Some may suffer from slurred speech. Others may lose track of important words or have trouble expressing themselves. Putting together clear, comprehensive sentences may present significant challenges.
This symptom not only makes it very difficult for victims with traumatic brain injury to return to work, it can leave them struggling to communicate with loved ones. Over time, especially if these symptoms do not resolve, the victim may notice the loss of many relationships, especially casual relationships or relationships with individuals who struggle to understand the new challenges the victim may face from those motorcycle accident injuries.
Emotional Regulation Difficulties
While most people say that they “feel” emotions and consider them regulated by the heart, not the brain, in reality, the brain regulates emotional processing. Patients with traumatic brain injuries often experience trouble with emotional regulation as a result of their injuries.
For some, those emotional difficulties manifest as mood swings: they may feel very happy one moment, only to find themselves irrationally angry the next, with no seeming influence that caused the shift. Others find themselves reacting out of proportion with the original stimuli: a minor irritation, for example, might cause a massive explosion, or relatively minor sorrows might lead to weeping.
Difficulty regulating emotions can make it very difficult for patients with traumatic brain injury to interact with people. Not only can this make a return to work challenging, especially for individuals who work in a customer service position, it can make it very difficult for accident victims to interact with loved ones, especially those who might not understand the challenges that individual faces.
Anxiety and Depression
In addition to the overall emotional regulation challenges faced by individuals with traumatic brain injury, many suffer from increased rates of anxiety and depression. Normally, the brain regulates the hormones necessary to improve mood and keep it relatively consistent. Following traumatic brain injury, however, the brain may lose the ability to regulate those hormones properly.
Increased rates of anxiety can leave traumatic brain injury victims struggling in unfamiliar situations or suffering from immense difficulty in public. They may find themselves unduly anxious when surrounded by people, or struggle more than before when it comes time to tackle something new. Anxiety can make even normal situations very overwhelming for victims with traumatic brain injury.
Depression, on the other hand, can make motivation incredibly difficult. Not only does depression often create a pervasive feeling of sadness, it can leave traumatic brain injury victims struggling to find the energy needed to complete ordinary tasks. Since those tasks may now take considerably more effort than before, victims with traumatic brain injury may need extra assistance or external motivation to manage many common tasks.
Commonly, victims with traumatic brain injury find their sleep impacted by the injury. Some victims sleep more than usual as the brain attempts to heal itself. They may find themselves getting tired very easily, which can make it difficult for them to go to work, attend events, or even participate in activities that they enjoy. This increased time spent in sleep can also leave less time for self-care, relationships, or other activities of daily life.
Other victims struggle with falling asleep at all. Some feel a reluctance to sleep, especially if they suffered a long loss of consciousness from the motorcycle accident. Others may simply have trouble falling asleep. Ongoing sleep loss, however, can exacerbate many of the other symptoms associated with traumatic brain injury, especially problems with emotional regulation or difficulty with basic processing tasks.
Some victims with a traumatic brain injury after a motorcycle accident suffer personality changes, either temporary or permanent, due to their injuries. This can make it difficult for victims to maintain relationships with friends and loved ones, especially those who may expect specific things from them or relate to specific attitudes.
Healing From Traumatic Brain Injury
In the aftermath of a motorcycle accident that results in traumatic brain injury, many victims have a great deal of healing to do. They may face challenges on the road to recovery. Working with an occupational therapist can help many victims with traumatic brain injury develop the coping skills they need to face everyday tasks.
Traumatic brain injury can linger unpredictably, regardless of its initial severity. Some victims with minor traumatic brain injury may find themselves dealing with symptoms a year or more after the initial accident. Victims with moderate to severe traumatic brain injury may deal with some of those impacts for the rest of their lives.
If you suffer a traumatic brain injury in a motorcycle accident due to another party’s negligence, you may have grounds for a motorcycle accident claim that can help compensate you for some of the losses you faced. Contact an experienced motorcycle accident attorney as soon after your accident as possible to learn more about your right to compensation.