A closed head injury is a blow to the head from a physical object or shock wave, where the scalp and skull aren't penetrated. This is the most common type of head injury, and most mild head injuries are closed head injuries. But even a closed head injury that doesn't cause visible bleeding can be serious, because the brain does not need to be cut or penetrated to be damaged. Because the brain doesn't have much extra room inside the head, a sudden, violent blow can throw it hard against the skull. If the blow is hard enough, it might destroy brain cells directly; it might also physically tear the neurons, which are the connections between cells that allow them to communicate with one another. And if the blow was hard enough to break blood vessels, the brain may sustain further damage as time goes on. This is why it's so important to seek treatment if you have any TBI symptoms.
Concussions are the most common types of closed head injuries; doctors define concussion as a closed head injury with no internal bleeding that temporarily disrupts the normal functions of the brain. They can be mild or severe, but they're not life-threatening. Victims may or may not pass out, temporarily lose their memory of the accident, or feel confused. These and other symptoms of concussion should pass within a few days, but victims should do their best to avoid another head injury within the next few weeks, because even a mild second impact to the same area can be life-threatening.
A more serious form of closed head injury is contusion, which is the medical name for a bruise to the brain. This might also be called a hematoma. Even though bruises are usually minor, a contusion of the brain can be quite serious, because there are several ways for it to lead to further brain damage. One is simple loss of blood to the brain; because blood carries oxygen to the brain, lack of blood starves brain cells of oxygen, which can kill them within minutes. Another consequence of a bruise to the brain is swelling, also known as edema. All bruises cause some swelling, but because the brain doesn't have much extra room inside the skull, too much swelling can press brain tissue up against the skull or its sharp edges (intracranial pressure), eventually destroying cells. If intracranial pressure in a TBI patient gets too high, doctors may choose to operate, opening the skull to relieve the pressure. The seriousness of bleeding or bruising depends on where in the head it's taking place.
Because a closed head injury doesn't always leave a visible mark, it may go unnoticed or be dismissed as minor by doctors. This is especially true when the victims are able to function normally right after the accident, which may fool doctors, loved ones and the victims themselves into thinking everything is fine. But the symptoms of a brain injury may take days or even weeks to show up, especially if the victim has internal bleeding. If new symptoms appear -- or if old symptoms don't go away within a few days -- it's important to get medical treatment as soon as possible.
If you or someone you care about sustained a traumatic brain injury because of another person's negligence, you have the right to hold that person legally responsible. In a traumatic brain injury lawsuit, you may be able to recover compensation for past and future brain injury related medical bills, lost wages, permanent disability, pain and suffering and other damages. If you're considering brain injury litigation, you should speak with the experienced New York TBI lawyers at Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro & Halperin, LLP at (212) 986-7353.