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Minor Traumatic Brain Injuries (MTBI): A Silent Epidemic

A “traumatic brain injury” may sound rare and, well, traumatic – something you would certainly recognize if happened to you. However, traumatic brain injuries are relatively common, and it is possible for a person to suffer from a traumatic brain injury and not even know. Each year, about 1.5 million people in the United States suffer from a traumatic brain injury. Of these, about 75% are minor or mild traumatic brain injuries, also known as mTBI. These injuries are often overlooked or undiagnosed, but can have serious consequences.

What is mTBI?

Minor traumatic brain injuries are called “minor” because the initial physical trauma causing the injury can be relatively minimal. In fact, there need not be one single blow to the head – a series of smaller impacts can cause an injury to the brain. However, the consequences of mTBI can be significant.

The Center for Disease Control has called mTBI a “silent epidemic,” because symptoms such as impaired memory and cognitive impairment often are not noticed until an accident victim resumes their everyday life.

Science Daily reports a recent article from the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, which concludes that slip and fall accidents and motor vehicle crashes are two of the most common causes for mTBI. Often, these injuries are not diagnosed in the emergency room, and common tests for brain injuries – such as a CT scan or MRI – may not detect mTBI.

Who can suffer from mTBI?

Although mTBI can happen to anyone, males of all ages are more likely to suffer from an mTBI than are females. Additionally, mTBI is most likely to occur in children from newborns to four years old. Severe concussions are one type of mTBI which are frequently seen in contact sport athletes such as football players. For more information about concussions and mTBI, see the Brain Injury Association of America’s website.

What are the effects of mTBI?

Symptoms of mTBI include headaches, dizziness, fatigue, depression, and irritability. Visit the Mayo Clinic for a complete list of symptoms.

Often, the symptoms of mTBI linger on well after the trauma has passed, up to one year or more in about quarter of all cases. During this healing period, patients are vulnerable to other concussions, also called “second-impact syndrome,” which can cause severe brain, spinal cord, or nervous system injuries.

The most prominent example of mTBI and the law is the recent lawsuit filed by more than 4,500 former players against the NFL, alleging that the league was aware of the dangers of mTBI and failed to inform the players.  In August 2013, the players settled their suit with the NFL for $765 million.

With the help of an attorney, victims of mTBI may be able to recover substantial damages if their injury is the result of another person’s negligence.

For example, a car accident victim who suffers from mTBI may have a claim against the other driver if they were speeding or driving recklessly. Likewise, a person who slips, falls, and suffers from mTBI as a result may have a claim against the owner of the premises on which they fell.