Thanks to the overly-dramatized portrayal of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) in popular media, many people assume they would notice a brain injury right away after a crash. People often display dramatic bleeding or simply lose consciousness entirely when a movie or television show wants to depict that they have hurt their brain.
In the real world, even relatively severe brain injuries aren’t easy to notice right away. There are three different factors that make it harder for people to notice a brain injury right away after a car crash.
Your body’s response to the collision
When you go through a moment of extreme stress or fear, your brain responds by flooding you with certain chemicals to help you survive. Adrenaline helps someone escape a predator or fight back to save their life.
One of the ways adrenaline helps someone in an emergency situation is through masking their pain symptoms. You won’t notice discomfort caused by a brain injury specifically because your body has blocked your ability to process those feelings.
Broad range of symptoms
It can be hard for people to spot the signs of a TBI because they expect someone to lose consciousness or bleed from their nose or ears. While those certainly can be signs of a serious brain injury, many people only lose consciousness for a moment, making it harder to detect.
The location of an injury affects what symptoms someone has. They range from changes in mood and issues with memory to problems with balance and sensory changes. Ringing ears, blurry vision, forgetfulness, sleepiness and even irritability could all be warning signs of a TBI.
The nature of brain injuries
How brain injuries develop is also directly responsible for the delay in diagnosis for many people with TBIs. It is swelling or bruising inside the skull that causes worse symptoms in the hours, days and even weeks after a car crash. Someone who only notices a mild throbbing in their head right after the wreck they have progressively worse headaches, changes in their mood or even difficulty sleeping. These symptoms may get worse as the brain injury continues to develop or may change into other symptoms.
Realizing that you need medical help to spot and treat a traumatic brain injury after a car crash could make a huge difference in your prognosis.