CERVICAL SPINE INJURY DURING AUTO COLLISION

The first two articles in this series were about head trauma and in particular concussions. Any car accident has the potential to cause physical damage to your body. Understanding the most common injuries and why they occur can provide you with information that will help you understand what treatment you will need. While the advent off airbags and protective changes in construction of automobiles have helped to prevent many more severe injuries but indirectly force is transferred to the major.....

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CEREBAL CONCUSSION FROM AUTO COLLISION

Over 1.5 million people suffer for a traumatic brain injury due to a motor vehicle collision each year. These injuries are not only from direct trauma, such as your head sticking to steering wheel, head rest, or window. They can also occur from sudden flexion/extension of one’s neck or a sudden twisting motion.

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CONCUSSION - SYMPTOMS AND TREATMENT

Cerebral concussion has become a topic of increased importance, especially with contact sports. Concussion can occur as a result of a blow to the head. It can also occur with a sever jolting of the head, where the brain “bounces around” inside the bony confines of the skull. Concussion is classified as brain dysfunction due to a closed head injury. In severe cases the brain can be irreparably damaged. However, in most cases, after a sports or automobile injury, the brain is only temporarily damaged.


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CEREBAL CONCUSSION FROM AUTO COLLISION

Over 1.5 million people suffer for a traumatic brain injury due to a motor vehicle collision each year. These injuries are not only from direct trauma, such as your head sticking to steering wheel, head rest, or window. They can also occur from sudden flexion/extension of one’s neck or a sudden twisting motion.


The common phenomenon with these concussion injuries is that the brain suffers damage despite the normal protective mechanisms that the human body puts in place. Normally, the very hard skull protects the brain from penetrating injury. The brain floats in a spinal fluid solution to buffer and protect it from sudden movement. However, if the movement is too severe, even the normal body defenses do not adequately offer protection.


With direct blows to the head or sudden motions the brain can impact the inside of the skull. Or, a sheering motion can occur within the brain. This elastic activity, similar to twisting of a sponge, can internally damage the brain. The brain may externally appear to be unharmed but microscopic and cellular studies have shown that the delicate fibers of neuronal tissue can be stretched, torn, or severed.


Depending on which part of the brain is damaged and the severity of damage, then different symptoms will occur. You do not have to

lose consciousness (knocked out) to have the automobile collision cause a concussion. All parts of the brain can be affected by concussion. Some of the affected areas are vision, hearing, hand dexterity, emotions, memory, ability to perform certain physical activities, and ability to perform some mental activities.


It is common for people to feel “funny” for days or weeks after an auto collision. These people may have difficulty with short term memory, making simple math calculations, normal sleep patterns, or even expressing normal emotions in common situations. All of these abnormalities can be symptoms of a concussion.


People who suspect they had a concussion after a motor vehicle injury should seek medical evaluation. If you are diagnosed with a concussion, you should rest the part of your brain that is damaged until this abnormal function returns to normal. This resting may be not reading books, not doing math problems, not engaging in activities that can jostle the head and slow down healing. In fact, a repeat injury during this healing period may limit the eventual amount of healing of the affected area and could end in a permanent dysfunction.

A good clinical exam and follow-up exams can determine the impairment baseline and mark the pace and extent of improvement. Computer programs objectively test and document cognitive, reflex, and memory functions so they can be effectively followed as healing takes place.


In conclusion, if you suspect you suffered a concussion from an automobile collision, you should seek medical evaluation and treatment.

HOWARD D. MARKOWITZ, MD


more articles by HOWARD D.MARKOWITZ