Brain Injuries: New Study Finds Fewer People Recover From Post-Concussive Syndrome

The April 2017 issue of the Journal of Neurotrauma reports on a new study about post-concussion syndrome.

The study followed 110 patients who had post-concussive syndrome symptoms for more than three months, and the findings were stunning.  Of those patients, only 27% made a full recovery.  Of the 27% who made a recovery, 67% made a recovery within the first year.  And no one who had symptoms over three years ever made a recovery.

For those groups that didn’t recover, the continuing symptoms (in order of frequency) were:

  • Headache
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Dazed/don’t feel right/in a fog
  • Pressure in the head
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Difficulty remembering events
  • Neck pain
  • Sensitivity to noise
  • Depression/sadness
  • Insomnia/sleep disturbance
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Frustration
  • Feeling slowed down
  • Noise in the ears
  • Vision changes
  • Lightheadedness
  • Imbalance
  • More emotional
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Increased sensitivity to alcohol
  • Confusion
  • Personality changes
  • Vivid dreams
  • Numbness
  • Vertigo
  • Panic attacks
  • Disorientation
  • Stomach ache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Slurred speech
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting

These findings are significant to our brain injury cases.

Most insurance companies argue that brain injuries typically heal themselves and symptoms disappear after six months or a year. The insurance companies use that argument to reduce the value of the claim.

This study refutes that.  If a client has had symptoms lasting more than three months, then this study is evidence that the client will likely never make a full recovery.   Obviously, if an injury is permanent then the value of the case is higher.

The study is also interesting because it has a good list of symptoms of a brain injury.  It’s important for people to know these symptoms to help them recognize when they might have a brain injury.

Another interesting fact was the distribution of the symptoms.  Generally, post concussion syndrome has three classes of symptoms:

  1. Cognitive symptoms — affect your thinking
  2. Affective symptoms — affect your mood (depression, irritability, etc)
  3. Somatic symptoms — separate symptoms (headaches, light sensitivity, etc).

The study found that the persisting symptoms were quite evenly distributed between the three classes of symptoms.

 

 

Energy Drinks Linked To Brain Injuries

brainA new University of Toronto study found that teenagers who drink heavily caffeinated energy drinks are more prone to traumatic brain injuries.

In the firm, I see brain injuries in all sorts of situations — car wrecks, bicycle accidents, falls, etc.  But for teenagers, the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries is sports.  The rate of brain injuries in teens has been on a rise (in part, I think, because of better diagnoses).

The new study sheds some additional light on the problem.  The researchers interviewed 10,000 people from ages 11-20 and asked a series of questions, including questions about usage of energy drinks and their incidents of brain injuries.  The results were startling.

Those kids who had consumed one energy drink in the last year were twice as likely to have suffered a brain injury and non-drinkers, and those kids who consumed five or more energy drinks in the last week were nearly seven times more likely to have sustained a brain injury.

These results don’t necessarily show that the use of energy drinks makes a person more likely to suffer a brain injury from an event.  But it’s possible.  The high caffeine levels affect the brain in ways that we don’t know, and the caffeine levels could make the brain more susceptible to injury.  More study is needed there.

Alternatively, there is some thought that there is a correlation between the use of energy drinks and high risk behavior.  Maybe people who drink energy drinks engage in activities that are more dangerous than what a typical kid experiences.

Finally, there is the possibility that the use of energy drinks is a coping mechanism to deal with the after-effects of brain injuries.  Many kids with brain injuries describe themselves as being tired or in a fog.  Perhaps the usage of energy drinks is a way to fight off those symptoms.

There is still a lot to learn on these topics, but there is enough concern that I think we should discourage the use of these energy drinks by kids until we know that they’re safe.

Brain Injury Symptoms: Pain Disorders

The human brainAs I repeatedly tell clients, brain injuries often go undiagnosed following car wrecks or other accidents because doctors don’t usually know you well enough to make a pre-injury and post-injury comparison of your intelligence, emotional well-being, and general personality.  As a result, it’s often up to you or your family members to notice the symptoms of a brain injury and convey those to medical providers so you get the best care possible.  But to do that, you need to know the symptoms of brain injuries.  This series is designed to help you do that.

Problems with pain are common following brain injuries.

Headache.  Perhaps the most common symptom of a brain injury is a headache.  Symptoms can range from routine post-traumatic headaches to post-traumatic migraines.  The severity of the headache and the duration of the symptoms depends on the severity of the injury and the type of head injury sustained.

Neuropathic pain.  Neuropathic pain is a condition caused by injuries to the nervous system.    This is hard to describe, but the nerves are excited so pain is prevalent.  This pain may be treated by medication.

Central pain syndrome.  Central pain syndrome is pain that follows lesions to the central nervous system.  If the brain develops lesions from the brain injury, then central pain syndrome may develop.

National Safe Boating Week: The Statistics

Why is Safe Boating Week important?  Here are the statistics from the Safe Boating Council.

All figures are from the U.S. Coast Guard’s 2012 Recreational Boating Safety Statistics, the latest official record of reported recreational boating accidents. The full report is available online at: www.USCGBoating.org/statistics/accident_statistics.aspx.

  • Drowning was reported as the cause of death in almost three-fourths of all fatalities.
  • Approximately 85 percent of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets.
  • In 2012, the Coast Guard counted 4,515 accidents that involved 651 deaths, 3,000 injuries and approximately $38 million dollars of damage to property as a result of recreational boating accidents.
  • Approximately 14 percent of deaths occurred on boats where the operator had received boating safety instruction.
  • Operator inattention, operator inexperience, improper lookout, machinery failure and excessive speed are the top five primary contributing factors in accidents.
  • Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents; it was listed as the leading factor in 17 percent of the deaths.
  • Twenty-four children under age thirteen lost their lives while boating in 2012. Forty-two percent of the children who died in 2012 did so from drowning.
  • The most common types of vessels involved in reported accidents were open motorboats (47%), personal watercraft (19%) and cabin motorboats (15%).

National Recreational Boating Statistics

  • Fatalities: 651
  • Drownings: 459
  • Injuries (requiring medical treatment beyond first aid): 3,000
  • Boating Accidents: 4,515
  • Property Damage: $38,011,601
  • Number of registered recreational boats in the U.S.: 12,101,936

Unfortunately, Texas is the number 3 state for boating deaths and the number 4 state for boating accidents.

Remember to be safe.  Don’t let you or your family become another statistic.

 

 

National Safe Boating Week Is Here

ski boatThis year, May 17-23 is National Safe Boating Week.  Having represented those involved in boating and water based accidents, I know the importance of these safety measures.

Over the course of the week, I’ll have a few posts detailing the dangers and safety measures related to safe boating.  For today, I’ll give you the big overview of what you should do to make your trips out on our waterways just a little safer.

1. Avoid drinking and driving. This should go without saying, but a significant percentage of boating accidents involve alcohol.  Even worse, being on the water magnifies the effects of alcohol.  I’ve heard that one drink on the water is equal to four drinks on land.  I’m not sure that’s completely accurate, but it’s probably close.

2. Use your lights. Austin Lake Police have indicated that one of the biggest risks of danger is night time collisions.

3. Wear your life vest. The law requires you to have one life jacket on the boat for each person.  But if something goes wrong, you might not have the opportunity to grab a life jacket from storage.  Be safe and wear it instead.

4. Look out for others. As the lake crowds increase, make sure you are cognizant of other skiiers, tubers and wakeboarders. And always remember that as you follow, they could fall in an instant. On the other hand, when you voluntarily stop to get in and out of the water, make sure that you are doing so in as safe a place as possible.

Great News! Number of High School Athletes With Concussions Doubles

Concussions are on the rise.  New research published in the Journal of Sports Medicine finds that the number of high school athletes who have suffered a concussion has doubled between 2005 to 2012.

This is great news!

Why?

Researchers think the reality is that the number of concussions is the same, but we’re becoming much more aware about the diagnoses.  That is good news.

We’re learning more and more about the potential short and long-term consequences of concussions.  For example, we know more now about second-impact syndrome — if a person has a second head impact (even one not very severe) while the brain still suffers from a head injury, it can lead to severe disability or death.

We’re also learning that for the brain to heal, it needs to rest.  As weird as it sounds, that means no electronics, no television, and limited thinking.  A kid can’t follow these instructions if the concussion isn’t diagnosed.

Unfortunately, I know first hand how important this is.  My son suffered a baseball related concussion in February.  While he’s fine now, it was difficult to see him suffer from the consequences — the headaches, the inability to focus, etc.  Fortunately, we had it diagnosed right away, we got instruction on how to rest his brain, and he healed (after five or so weeks).

Increased awareness can help increased the likelihood of a successful outcome for others as well.

 

If you or a loved one has suffered a concussion in a wreck or accident, please call us at 512-476-4944 to see if we can help.

Auto Accidents: Top 9 Mistakes When Buying Your Auto Insurance MISTAKE THREE: Getting Burned By “Excluded Drivers”

Generally, when you buy auto insurance, the policy will cover you, your family, or anyone else who has permission to drive your vehicle.  Thus, if you or your child or your best friend are driving and cause a wreck, the insurance will protect all of you. This is a big benefit.  You never know when you might let someone borrow your car for something.
But today, many insurance companies are starting to offer policies that exclude drivers.  It’s not unusual to see low cost companies have a long list of people who they don’t cover.  Indeed, some new policies only provide coverage to those people specifically identified.

These kind of policies don’t provide near the protection that standard policies provide.  And they affect you in ways that you might not imagine.

Recently, we represented a woman who was estranged from her husband.  After they got back together, they were driving on a road trip.  Because she was getting tired, she let her husband driver her car.  While the husband was driving, they were in a serious wreck caused by an underinsured driver.

We settled the claim against the other driver and then pursued a claim against her underinsured driver coverage.  But the UIM carrier denied the claim because the husband, who was estranged when the policy was purchased, was specifically excluded under the policy.  Even though who was driving made no difference in whether the wreck would occur or how it occurred, the fact that the driver was excluded deprived my client of her needed benefits.

When you’re purchasing your insurance, make sure you understand the true implications of potentially excluded drivers.

REPUBLIC OF TEXAS (ROT) RALLY WEEKEND — LOOK OUT FOR MOTORCYLES

This weekend, Austin is hosting one of the largest motorcycle rallies in the world. Unfortunately, the last several ROT Rallies have resulted in too many fatalities, about three per year if I was guessing.

As is our tradition, I’m again posting our safety tips to help prevent motorcycle injuries.  As they use to say in CHIPS, one of my favorite shows as a kid, “Let’s be careful out there.”

Here are the Motorcycle Safety Foundations top ten things that drivers need to know about motorcycles:

1. There are a lot more cars and trucks than motorcycles on the road, and some drivers don’t “recognize” a motorcycle; they ignore it (usually unintentionally). Look for motorcycles, especially when checking traffic at an intersection.

2. Because of its small size, a motorcycle may look farther away than it is. It may also be difficult to judge a motorcycle’s speed. When checking traffic to turn at an intersection or into (or out of) a driveway, predict a motorcycle is closer than it looks.

3. Because of its small size, a motorcycle can be easily hidden in a car’s blind spots (door/roof pillars) or masked by objects or backgrounds outside a car (bushes, fences, bridges, etc). Take an extra moment to thoroughly check traffic, whether you’re changing lanes or turning at intersections.

4. Because of its small size a motorcycle may seem to be moving faster than it really is. Don’t assume all motorcyclists are speed demons.

5. Motorcyclists often slow by downshifting or merely rolling off the throttle, thus not activating the brake light. Allow more following distance, say 3 or 4 seconds. At intersections, predict a motorcyclist may slow down without visual warning.

6. Turn signals on a motorcycle usually are not self-canceling, thus some riders, (especially beginners) sometimes forget to turn them off after a turn or lane change. Make sure a motorcycle’s signal is for real.

7. Motorcyclists often adjust position within a lane to be seen more easily and to minimize the effects of road debris, passing vehicles, and wind. Understand that motorcyclists adjust lane position for a purpose, not to be reckless or show off or to allow you to share the lane with them.

8. Maneuverability is one of a motorcycle’s better characteristics, especially at slower speeds and with good road conditions, but don’t expect a motorcyclist to always be able to dodge out of the way.

9. Stopping distance for motorcycles is nearly the same as for cars, but slippery pavement makes stopping quickly difficult. Allow more following distance behind a motorcycle because it can’t always stop “on a dime.”

10. When a motorcycle is in motion, don’t think of it as motorcycle; think of it as a person.

 

If you want to see additional videos on motorcycle safety or read additional tips, simply search this site for ROT Rally.

 

If you or a loved one has been hurt in a motorcycle accident, please call us at (512)476-4944 and give us the opportunity to help you.

Motorcycle Accidents: ROT Rally Motorcycle Fatalities

Austin’s annual Republic of Texas (ROT) Rally has come and gone, and again we’ve had too many motorcycle fatalities.   This year, three motorcyclists were killed during the weekend.

In the first incident, a rider crashed into a guardrail on the Highway 290 flyover and fell off the flyover.

In the second incident, the rider was attempting a turn on Koenig Lane but crashed because his kickstand was down.

In the third, a rider was traveling on MLK Blvd when a Lexus turned in front of him.

Sadly, this makes some progress.  At first glance, only the third incident appears to have been caused by other motorists  (though police are still investigating what caused the first motorcyclist to hit the guardrail).  In years’ past, there seemed to have been more fatalities caused by other drivers.

There could be several reasons for that, but I suspect it’s because Austin drivers are becoming more aware of motorcyclists during ROT Rally weekend.   As Austin continues to host the Rally, people naturally become more aware of it.  But public officials are also pitching in. It appeared to me that there were more signs warning drivers to look out for motorcycles.

Let’s hope that these improvements continue and that we see fewer and fewer motorcycle accidents on ROT weekend and throughout the rest of the year.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a motorcycle accident, please let us to help.  You may call us at (512)476-4944 or submit a case using the forms on this site.

A Video Game To Help Head Injuries And Brain Injuries?

I’m a huge fan of TED, the Technology, Entertainment, & Design conference.  It’s an annual event that asks some of the world’s most brilliant people to give short speeches on a wide-range of topics.  People pay thousands (or tens of thousands) of dollars to attend live, but most of the talks are presented on the TED website.

This weekend, I was listening to NPR’s Ted Radio Hour Podcast, and I heard the story about Jane McGonigal’s Ted Talk.  Ms. McGonigal is a video game designer, and the thesis of her talk was how video games can be used to solve some of the world’s problems.

But the amazing thing about her story is that she has proven it herself.  You see, in 2009, she suffered a traumatic brain injury.  She was on the brink of suicide when she decided to try to develop a video game that could help her recover.   And it did.   Within months of being on the verge of suicide, she was not only able to improve her condition and cope with her limitations, but she was able to develop and present her TED talk.

That game, Superbetter, is now available to all.  It was released in March of this year and is being used by people all over the world to help them deal with their ailments.  You can watch a video of Ms. McGonigal discussing the game here.

Perlmutter & Schuelke, PLLC maintains offices in Austin, Texas. However, our attorneys and lawyers represent clients throughout the state of Texas, including Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Forth Worth, El Paso, New Braunfels, San Marcos, Kyle, Buda, Round Rock, Georgetown, Lockhart, Bastrop, Elgin, Manor, Brenham, Cedar Park, Burnet, Marble Falls, Temple and Killeen. By Brooks Schuelke


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