Mild Head Injuries and Brain Damage
Many people assume that serious brain damage only results from a moderate-to-severe head injury. However, a recent study in the journal, Neurology, suggests that even a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI), such as a concussion, can have hazardous consequences. According to Medical News Today, which reported on the new study, “a bang to the head does not have to be severe to cause damage to brain tissue and result in thinking and memory problems.”
Andrew Blamire, the senior author of the study and professor at Newcastle University’s Institute of Neuroscience, indicated that much of the previous research on brain injuries focused on victims with severe or chronic head traumas. Blamire reports that his study is different because his research team “studied patients who suffered clinically mild injuries often from common accidents, such as falling from a bicycle, or slow speed car accidents.” These findings are particularly important, as about 90 percent of all TBIs are classified as “mild to moderate.”
How did the study work? Blamire’s team looked at 53 individuals with TBIs, including 44 with mild TBIs and 9 with moderate TBIs. They compared those people to 33 others who had not sustained a brain injury. The group underwent a number of “memory and thinking skills tests,” as well as brain scans. The researchers conducted these tests twice: days after the brain injuries occurred, and again about one year later.
The findings from the memory and thinking skills tests were striking. According to the study, “even mild TBI caused lower scores.” Indeed, patients with mild TBIs scored, on average, 25 percent lower on the memory and thinking tests given days after the injury occurred, than people who had not sustained a brain injury.
Common Causes and Effects of Mild TBIs
What is a mild TBI? As the researchers in the recent study implied, it is a head injury that is most frequently caused by a bump or blow to the head. Concussions are one of the most common types of mild TBI, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
What kinds of accidents lead to concussions and mild TBIs?
- Car accidents;
- Contact sports;
- Recreational sports; and
- Slips and falls.
According to the CDC, mild TBIs can affect a person’s cognitive and physical abilities. Common symptoms include:
- Difficulties thinking, remembering, and concentrating;
- Physical problems, such as headaches, blurry vision, and balance difficulties;
- Emotional effects, including irritability, increased emotional responses, nervousness, anxiety, and irritability; and
- Sleeping difficulties that range from sleeping too much, to sleeping too little.
The study in Neurology emphasizes the fact that patients with mild TBIs showed obvious signs of head trauma in the memory and thinking test administered soon after the injury. Therefore, if you or loved one sustained any form of brain injury it is important to follow the following tips from the CDC to improve healing after suffering a mild TBI:
- Getting enough daily rest and sleep;
- Avoiding physically demanding activities;
- Avoiding activities that require extensive concentration; and
- Avoiding alcohol.