What is Mild Traumatic Brain Injury?
In January 2020, Iran initiated missile strikes on a U.S. military base in Iraq. While initially it was reported that there were no injuries, it later emerged that dozens of people had suffered concussion-like injuries and other traumatic brain injuries (TBI). While dismissed by some as “headaches and other things” that were “not very serious,” medical professionals caution that just because a traumatic brain injury is classified as “mild” doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be taken seriously. In many cases, mild traumatic brain injury can have long-lasting and devastating effects.
Mild TBI may also be called “mild head injury” or “concussion.” Most people know someone who has had a concussion, so they may not view it as a big deal. While they may be “mild” relative to other types of head injury and brain damage, these injuries should not be ignored.
Understanding Mild TBI
What is “mild traumatic brain injury?” It is defined as a brain injury in which confusion, disorientation, or loss of consciousness last for less than thirty minutes. Mild TBI may be caused by impact in an auto accident, a sports injury, a physical assault, or any severe impact that causes the brain to be shaken around inside the skull. Impact that is severe enough may even cause the brain to be bruised.
The brain, like other body parts, contains blood vessels. In a severe impact, blood vessels in the brain may tear and bleed. Most of the time, these blood vessels heal on their own.
Some physicians may fail to diagnose mild TBI. With a TBI that is classified as “mild,” a patient may have a CT scan or MRi which is normal. However, the patient may also experience post-concussion syndrome, a variety of cognitive problems and other symptoms, including:
- Memory problems
- Mood swings, irritability, and frustration
- Difficulty thinking
- Difficulty paying attention
- Sleep disturbances
- Dizziness and balance problems
- Disturbances of vision, including blurriness
These symptoms may persist for months or even a year, during which time the patient may suffer physically and emotionally. While few people experience all of the symptoms, even a few are enough to cause stress and disruption of daily life.
And the patient is not the only one affected; these injuries have a “ripple” effect on the family. Family activities may be curtailed due to the limitations of the patient with the TBI. If the patient cannot work, the family may lose income. And the often-rapid mood changes that accompany a mild TBI and post-concussion syndrome can be stressful, even terrifying, for the whole household.
Less common symptoms of mild TBI include loss of smell, nausea, and sensitivity to light and sounds, such as may accompany a migraine.
Dealing With Symptoms of Mild TBI
In many cases, not a lot of intervention is required after a mild traumatic brain injury. Most healing takes place in the first three months following the injury, and most people are completely back to normal by six months, though as noted above, symptoms may persist for as long as a year. Recovery tends to be slower in people over the age of forty or who have a history of prior head injury.
Typical treatment for mild TBI involves painkillers, such as you might take for an ordinary headache. In addition, extra rest may be prescribed. Especially for children who have suffered a concussion, “screen time” on phones, tablets, computers, and televisions is strictly limited or even eliminated.
A majority of people who experience mild TBI suffer from at least some symptoms of post-concussion syndrome. Some of these symptoms may not emerge immediately after the injury. Often, the first signs of post-concussion syndrome and mild TBI are noticed by family members and loved ones who notice that the patient is acting “off” or “different.”
After a head injury, you may want to get back to “normal” life as soon as possible. Especially if you feel mostly better, it is tempting to try to jump back into your daily routine. This is often a mistake. It is best to ease back into your usual activities, getting more rest than usual and avoiding screens. Trying to rush the recovery process can actually prolong it, causing symptoms of post-concussion syndrome to linger longer than they otherwise might.
Mild traumatic brain injury is “mild” in comparison to more severe head trauma, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t warrant appropriate medical attention. If you have questions about mild TBI or how your doctor chose to test or treat you, please contact Huegli Fraser to schedule a consultation.
The information in this blog post is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. You should not make a decision whether or not to contact a qualified medical malpractice attorney based upon the information in this blog post. No attorney-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. If you require legal advice, please consult with a competent medical malpractice attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.