Acceleration and Deceleration Brain Injuries

By Matt Lalande in Brain Injuries on December 12, 2022

Acceleration and Deceleration Brain Injuries

A traumatic brain injury is normally defined as a traumatically induced structural injury and/or physiological disruption of brain function as a result of an external force which causes loss or decreased level of consciousness or loss of memory for events immediately before or after the injury, alteration in mental state at the time of the injury (confusion, disorientation, slowed thinking, etc., also known as alteration of consciousness [AOC]), neurological deficits (weakness, loss of balance,change in vision, praxis, paresis/paraplegia, sensory loss, aphasia, etc.) that may or may not be transient or intracranial lesion.

External forces may include the head being struck by an object, the head striking an object, a foreign body penetrating the brain, forces generated from events such as a blast or explosion, or the brain undergoing an acceleration/deceleration movement without direct external trauma to the head. In some cases – acceleration/deceleration movement, such as that caused in a serious car accident, can cause compressive, tensile, and shear strains – all of which can cause tremendous damage resulting in severe traumatic bring injury – which can affect both the physical and cognitive functioning of an individual. Neuropsychiatric symptoms associated with severe traumatic brain injury caused by acceleration / deceleration can include:

  • delirium
  • post-traumatic confusion
  • mood disorders
  • psychotic disorders
  • decreased impulse control
  • memory problems
  • PTSD
  • difficulty concentrating
  • anxiety
  • cognitive changes
  • disorders of diminished motivation
  • sleep disturbance
  • fatigue
  • headaches
  • personality change
  • aggressive disorders
  • depression
  • psychosis and much more.

Neuropsychiatric symptoms may also arise after initial hospitalization and recovery; as time passes following a TBI, certain areas of the brain may take more time to heal than others.

What are Acceleration and Deceleration Brain Injuries?

The brain is surrounded by a liquid layer of cerebrospinal fluid within the hard protective human skull. Being surrounded by a layer of cerebrospinal fluid allows the brain to shift back and forth with the movement of the head, meaning that actions like nodding or shaking your head will normally not be enough for the brain to make contact with the skull.

However, brain trauma can occur when the head is abruptly snapped forward, backward or side-to-side in a car accident or experiences a high-impact blow to the head. Known as “acceleration and deceleration brain injuries” for the way in which the brain is suddenly forced to speed up and slow down along with the movement of the head, these types of injuries cause a distortion in the brain’s structure and can lead to bleeding, bruising, and other complications as they force the head to move from one side to the other.

Common Causes of Acceleration and Deceleration Brain Injuries

Acceleration and deceleration brain injuries make up the majority of TBIs, with the most common cause being motorized vehicle accidents. In addition to motorized vehicle accidents, there are a number of common causes that are responsible for the majority of reported acceleration and deceleration brain injuries:

Car Accidents: a severe traumatic brain injury can when a serious car accident impact causes the head to experience either an acceleration, deceleration or rotation motion of a large degree; resulting in severe swelling and damage to the brain. Permanent damage to the cognitive, physical and psychological functioning of an individual. The results of severe car accident TBI can vary, depending on the severity and location of the injury in the brain. Some severe TBI implications include troubles with speech, difficulty with memory, physical impairments as well as psychological changes.

Motorcycle Accidents: motorcycle accidents are a severe risk for severe traumatic brain injuries. These injuries occur when the acceleration and/or deceleration force of the motorcycle accident exceeds the body’s ability to absorb it. Helmet safety plays an important role in reducing the severity of traumatic brain injury, but even when riders wear a helmet it does not guarantee full protection.

Pedestrian Accidents: a severe traumatic brain injury resulting from a pedestrian accident can have severe, lifelong consequences. Such an injury occurs when the head rapidly accelerates and decelerates, causing serious damage to the brain. Depending on the intensity of the trauma, symptoms may include physical disabilities, paralysis, cognitive deficiencies, frequent headaches and dizziness, loss of speech or vision, depression and emotional outbursts. Treatment for severe traumatic brain injuries typically requires extensive medical care in order to lessen symptoms and improve quality of life.

Falls: a slip or trip accident has the potential to produce a traumatic brain injury. When a person slips or trips, their brain can be impacted due to the acceleration and deceleration forces on their head as it rapidly shifts directions and moves in an unnatural and violent manner. These traumatic brain injuries can range from mild, such as a concussion, to severe where there is a prolonged period of unconsciousness, serious cognitive impairment, and/or permanent disability. It is important to remember that traumatic brain injury can have long-term physical, cognitive and psychological consequences that require significant attention.

Sports: football and soccer are the two most common sports that involve collisions or accidental head trauma, but brain trauma can also be sustained in lacrosse, hockey and rugby. When an athlete’s head is subject to a high-impact blow from either a competitor or the ground, their brain can violently move inside their skull and cause traumatic brain injury.

Shaken baby syndrome: a form of acceleration and deceleration brain injury that is caused when an infant or small child is violently shaken by another person, often a parent or caretaker. In Canada, 60 to 70 cases of shaken baby syndrome are reported annually, with an estimated death rate of 10%. In cases where the infant survives, the shaken baby syndrome can result in lasting physical and mental disabilities.

Types of Brain Trauma

Acceleration and deceleration brain injuries can result in different forms of brain trauma, or traumatic brain injury (TBI). These forms of trauma can cause physical and cognitive impairments, including headaches, dizziness, nausea and sensory impairments. Brain trauma is a complex condition that can range in severity from mild to severe. The severity of the injury will depend on the force of the impact as well as any preexisting neurological conditions that might have been worsened by the trauma:

Concussions: A concussion is the mildest form of brain trauma and often occurs as a result of contact sports or falls. Concussions can cause physical symptoms such as headaches, dizziness and nausea as well as cognitive symptoms such as confusion or amnesia. These symptoms can last for days or weeks after the initial trauma and might require medical attention.

Focal contusions: bruises that occur somewhere on the brain, typically as a result of it impacting a hard surface, such as the interior surface of the skull. Focal contusions can cause swelling of the brain (known as cerebral edema) which can cause further damage to the brain if left untreated, as well as long-term impairments depending on the severity of the injury and the area of the brain that was impacted.

Diffuse axonal injuries (DAI): is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) that results from a blunt head injury. In this particular subtype, accelerating-decelerating motions cause  nerve fibres within the brain tear due to the brain violently moving inside the skull. When nerve fibres in the brain tear, it affects the communication between different parts of the brain and can lead to a variety of neurological impairments like changes in personality, difficulty regulating emotions, slurred speech and sensory impairments. DAI is an extremely serious form of brain trauma and, in the worst cases, DAI can even lead to coma or death. The most common mechanism for DAI is high-speed motor vehicle accidents

Intracranial hematomas: a collection of blood can build up inside the brain caused by brain trauma, which can lead to swelling and elevated pressure within the brain. Intracranial hematomas can be caused by a burst or cut artery in the brain, bruising on the surface of the brain, or a skull fracture. Intracranial hematomas are extremely serious and can cause further damage to the brain if left untreated. As pressure builds within the brain, it can lead to various neurological issues, such as headaches, nausea, and even a decrease in consciousness as the physical stress applied to the brain begins to affect brain function.

Subdural hematomas: a type of intracranial hematoma where the blood collects between the dura mater and arachnoid lining of the brain. Subdural hematomas can be caused by a traumatic brain injury, such as falling from heights or being struck on the head. This sort of injury can cause swelling and elevated pressure within the brain, leading to symptoms such as headaches, nausea, vomiting, slurred speech and difficulty concentrating.

Symptoms of Acceleration and Deceleration Brain Injuries

When an individual suffers brain trauma due to an acceleration and deceleration brain injury, observable symptoms can help assess the level of brain trauma even before a doctor has had a chance to render a diagnosis. Depending on the severity of the trauma, symptoms of acceleration and deceleration brain injuries can range in their impact on daily life and work as well as the probability of recovery. The specific symptoms experienced by individuals who suffer acceleration and deceleration brain injuries relate to the area of the brain which has been impacted, and can vary from person to person depending on the area of the brain which was damaged:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Lightheadedness
  • Loss of balance or coordination
  • Visual impairments such as blurry vision, double vision, or sensitivity to light
  • Memory problems
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Speech impairments such as slurred speech or difficulty forming words
  • Personality changes
  • Emotional disturbances such as increased irritability, apathy, or emotional outbursts
  • Seizures
  • Paralysis

The symptoms of acceleration and deceleration brain injuries can have a profound impact on an individual’s life, limiting their ability to work or enjoy leisure activities. Despite the natural comparisons that take place between survivors of acceleration and deceleration brain injuries, there are no mild symptoms when it comes to brain trauma – any sort of brain trauma is a serious medical case in its own right. For survivors of brain trauma, moving on after the injury is particularly challenging, and even more so when it involves your work and the financial stability of you and your family are at stake.

How Brain Trauma can lead to Work Disability

When an individual suffers from any form of brain trauma, it can have a devastating effect on their ability to work. For many survivors of acceleration and deceleration brain injuries, the symptoms of their trauma can render them unable to perform the tasks which they were once able to do before the injury:

  • Physical symptoms of brain trauma: headaches, nausea, lightheadedness and loss of balance or coordination can lead to an inability to perform physically demanding tasks. People working in industries requiring manual labour or intensive physical activity who suffer brain trauma may find themselves unable to return to the level of working ability they had before their injury. Many report experiencing difficulty with work-life balance as they physically cannot manage to perform the tasks they are tasked with and also struggle with basic life skills like shopping or cooking due to their physical impairments.
  • Mental symptoms of brain trauma: confusion, disorientation, memory problems, difficulty concentrating and personality changes can lead to an inability to perform mentally demanding tasks. For people working in industries requiring extensive mental activity, such as accounting or IT, brain trauma can mean an inability to keep up with the demands of their job. Even given time to return to the workplace, many survivors of brain trauma find themselves unable to adjust to the work they once did – leading them to seek professional help and guidance in finding an alternative job, if even that is possible.
  • Sensory impairments: speech and visual impairments can also lead to an inability to work, especially for people working in roles involving extensive communication and interaction with clients and colleagues. It’s common for brain trauma victims to experience difficulty in forming sentences, as well as difficulties understanding conversations or following instructions.
  • Psychological stress: brain trauma can also lead to psychological stress which, over time and without proper support, can lead to depression or other mental health issues. Their inability to adjust to the workplace can be the basis for anxiety, distracting them from the ultimate goal of recovery. In cases of brain trauma, PTSD is not uncommon, which can be an added source of difficulty for survivors of brain trauma when it comes to returning or staying in the workplace.

Brain trauma can profoundly impact an individual’s life and ability to work – leaving many survivors without the support and financial assistance they desperately need. The difficulties associated with denied personal injury disabilities can leave individuals feeling isolated and helpless, unable to seek the support they need to return to work or even to sustain a basic quality of life. For survivors of acceleration and deceleration brain injuries, an experienced brain injury lawyer can help them access the compensation they need to rebuild their lives and move on from their trauma.

If your loved one has suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury, we can help.

We understand that accident victims who suffer a severe brain injury often experience a significantly decreased quality of life. This can manifest in several ways, including the inability to perform everyday activities or ADLs (activities of daily living). As a result, victims of serious traumatic brain injuries are often dependent on others to provide basic care and assistance – all of which can be a burden and from a cost perspective, quite astronomical. What becomes important about the cost, however, is that the quality of care for an individual, and thus the quality of life that person can experience after the traumatic brain injury, is dependent on available financial resources. It is important that if your loved one has suffered a severe traumatic brain injury as a result of someone’s negligence that you speak to one of our brain injury lawyers to explain your family’s legal rights and to ensure that you understand the compensation available to care for your injured loved one.

Lalande Personal Injury Lawyers have extensive experience in brain injury law and have helped many people who have been injured in accidents get the compensation they deserve. If you or a loved one has been involved in a serious accident and have suffered brain trauma or acceleration and deceleration brain injury, call our brain injury lawyers today, toll-free, no matter where you are in Ontario at 1-844-LALANDE or local in Southern Ontario at 905-333-8888 or alternatively, contact us confidentially by sending us an email through our website.

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