Many people who suffer a concussion, as a result of a car accident, sports injury or other trauma, fully recover within days or weeks of being injured. However, for some, the injury to their brain results in permanent damage and chronic symptoms, which can have a lasting and significant impact on their enjoyment of life and ability to function in many situations including in the workplace.
Concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury. Individuals who sustain a concussion and then follow their physician’s recommendations for rest and reduced physical and mental activities, often find that their symptoms abate and they can return to their normal activities and work in a reasonable amount of time. And, although the post-concussion recovery period doesn’t follow the same path for different patients, it has been found that persons with more severe, and a greater number of, initial symptoms are more likely to have a slower recovery.
The Mayo Clinic reports that the most immediate symptoms of concussion include:
- a short loss of consciousness
- headaches and/or pressure in the head
- nausea and/or vomiting
- feeling confused or dazed
- delayed responses
- inability to remember the traumatic event
- slurred speech and/or ringing in the ears
Symptoms which may appear hours or days after the initial injury include:
- cognitive problems, including difficulty concentrating and remembering
- personality changes, such as irritability
- psychological problems, such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder
- light or noise sensitivity
- difficulty sleeping
Several studies, reported by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, examined the health of 69 persons who suffered a mild traumatic brain injury. After a followup period of about 15 months after injury, researchers found that almost half continued to suffer from some post-concussion symptoms and disability, and 3 persons were unable to work due to their injury. It was concluded that the long-term consequences of concussion, including persistent symptoms, disabilities and reduced levels of life satisfaction likely resulted from the injury to the brain tissue, at least in part. Researchers also discovered that 12 of the 69 persons continued to display post-traumatic stress-related symptoms.
Persons who have experienced a concussion or mild traumatic brain injury during wartime are particularly prone to psychological problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A study of 50 war veterans who sustained concussions, and 44 who did not, found that the combat veterans with concussions were more likely to suffer from severe depression, PTSD, anxiety and sleep disturbances. Further, it was discovered that symptoms often worsened in 1 to 5 years after they were injured. This finding led researchers to conclude that we cannot assume that a patient’s symptoms typically stabilize about one year after injury, which is a common assumption made in concussion treatment programs.
Serious and long-lasting concussion symptoms are certainly not restricted to wartime injuries – concussions occur during common events such as car accidents and recreational activities, sometimes with a life-changing outcome. In a recent report, a 20-year-old university student struck the back of her head while snowboarding and was diagnosed with a concussion. The young woman initially experienced nausea, dizziness and a feeling of being disoriented. Her doctor advised her to get rest and she expected her symptoms to resolve soon, but instead experienced a difficult 18 months of recovery, during which she was unable to attend school and largely stayed at home. Her symptoms during ‘recovery’ included headaches, an inability to concentrate, sensitivity to lights and sounds, and an inability to read or watch TV.
In a 2017 interview, the director of Group Life and Disability at Equitable Life Insurance Canada admitted that, for concussion or mild traumatic brain injury, injured persons and health professionals cannot expect to see a predictable or shared outcome. The insurer further stated that Equitable has processed claims for persons who sustained serious head injuries in everyday activities, such as falling down the stairs at home and while driving, as well as work-related injuries.
Post-concussion syndrome may cause debilitating symptoms even when medical tests such as an MRI or CT scan indicate no abnormalities. When the brain sustains a violent trauma that causes injury or concussion, the brain shifts within the confined skull cavity and miniscule shear forces can cause brain receptors to no longer fire in the same way. This circumstance may impact the victim’s memory, brain function and mood.
Accident victims who sustain a concussion should seek immediate treatment and follow the advice of their doctor. Returning to work, studies or play too soon can be dangerous in terms of causing worsening of symptoms or permanent injury. If symptoms persist and effect your quality of life, you may have grounds to sue the responsible party if your injury resulted from negligence. And, if your symptoms prevent you from performing your job, you are entitled to seek long-term disability benefits under your disability plan . An experienced concussion injury lawyer at Stevenson Whelton MacDonald & Swan can give you expert advice on the strength of your claim and your best options for obtaining benefits or compensation going forward.