You watched as your daughter went down on the volleyball court. She was trying to block a spiked ball coming at her when a fellow teammate’s elbow hit her squarely in the nose, rendering her unconscious.
Of course, this same injury could’ve happened on a basketball court or football field or soccer field or any other type of sports arena. In fact, over 300,000 traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) occur each year just from playing sports. But athletes aren’t the only individuals who suffer TBIs. Many young children learning to climb and play experience falls; many elderly individuals suffering from poor balance experience falls. Sometimes, it’s just a bump on the head as you’re climbing out of your car; sometimes is the trauma of a car accident that causes your injury.
The fact is, any sudden back-and-forth jarring action to the head can cause the brain to bounce and twist around inside the skull, resulting in injury to the brain. Some traumatic head injuries are mild such as a strong elbow to the nose, and some are more severe and devastating.
Side Effects of Traumatic Brain Injuries
The more mild TBIs are called concussions and manifest themselves through side effects such as headaches, confusion, loss of balance, amnesia concerning the event, temporary loss of consciousness, nausea and vomiting, blurred vision, sensitivity to lights and sounds, dizziness, fatigue, ringing in the ears, etc. The effects of concussions generally subside after a few hours or a few days.
Additional side effects could emerge hours or days after the injury and trigger long-term problems such as memory problems, trouble concentrating, irritability, personality changes, continued sensitivity to lights and sounds, disorders of smell and taste, sleep problems, depression, psychological problems, etc. Luckily, these long-term effects are rare, and 80% of individuals who suffer from concussions recover fully within six weeks.
Those who, after three months following their injury, still suffer from severe headaches and the additional long-term concussion side effects are often diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome; these side effects can cause problems for a few months and up to a year or more after the injury; the side effects often severely impact the individual’s psychological and behavioral stability and his or her ability to perform higher mental tasks due to short-term memory loss and attention problems. The good new is very few individuals continue to suffer from memory problems a year past their injury.
Moderate to Severe Traumatic Brain Injuries
Moderate TBIs are generally considered to be brain injuries that result in twenty minutes to six hours of unconsciousness; severe brain injuries are considered to be injuries that result in unconsciousness that lasts more than 6 hours.
The side effects of these traumatic brain injuries are more severe than concussions and can be long-lasting and even permanent. Cognitive problems such as attention, concentration, memory, confusion, impulsiveness, and distractibility are common afflictions. Speech and language problems, sensory problems dealing with touch, and vision, hearing, smell, and taste issues all are areas of continued concern. Many individuals will suffer from permanent physical disabilities from severely impacted motor functions. And many will suffer long-lasting interpersonal relationship problems due to negative social-emotional and behavioral effects such as aggression, irritability,depression, mood swings, lack of motivation, etc.
Treating Your Traumatic Brain Injury
Mild injuries or concussions generally don’t require any treatment other than rest, taking care of your headache with over-the-counter medications, and monitoring your symptoms at home. Because of some of your memory problems and dizziness issues directly following your concussion, you may want to stay away from work or school or sports until those conditions lift.
Moderate to Severe Traumatic Brain Injuries
With moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries, several initial treatments will be performed once MRIs are completed and assessments are made: patients are often put on ventilators to keep their breathing steady; medications are often given to control seizures and to heavily sedate patients into brain-healing, medically-induced comas; and surgery is sometimes necessary as the only way to stabilize a patient.
Once a patient is stable, rehabilitative care begins. Many individuals with severe traumatic brain injuries need to receive physical, speech, and occupational therapies to learn to adapt to their new disabilities, learn to walk and talk again, and relearn life skills the best they can. Other patients will need to meet with neuropsychiatrists to deal with any issues in thinking and behavior that may have developed due to their brain injury.
There are so many resources available to individuals who have suffered a TBI. And recovery is possible, although it is a tough road for most. In the past, relying on the various physical and occupational therapies, hoping to be one of the lucky ones whose brain could adapt and reroute pathways to begin functioning again, was the only hope.
Today, there is a revolutionary therapy offering new hope and actual reversal of brain damage: a stem cell treatment for TBI. Using stem cells taken from the patient’s own adipose tissue (fat), the patient is injected with a serum containing those stem cells that, in turn, target injured areas. These stem cells trigger regrowth of healthy cells in place of the damaged cells, allowing the brain to heal, and the individual to gain back many previously lost functions.
Traumatic brain injuries cover a wide range of symptoms and degrees of permanence. Depending on how severe the injury is, individuals can experience results along the entire spectrum of healing: a full recovery to lingering issues to full disability. Where it once was believed that severely disabled TBI patients weren’t destined to see much improvement over their lifetimes, now, with promising new treatments, there is hope for healing.