Concussion is often associated with blows to the head suffered in sports, but the potential causes are far broader. Falls, assaults, being hit by a moving object, motor vehicle accidents, and falling from a bicycle are just some of the many factors which can lead to the diagnosis of concussion. While the number of cases of concussion in the UK each year is not clear, there were nearly 350,000 admissions to hospitals across the country for acquired brain injuries (ABI) between 2016 and 2017, which equated to one every 90 seconds. In this article, we will examine the underlying reasons for concussion, the impact it can have, and the long-term prognosis. And furthermore, we will explain if you might have grounds for filing a claim in the event of a head injury which was due to the negligent acts of another person or business entity.
What is concussion?
Concussion is a head injury caused by a bump, knock, or sudden movement of the head. During the event which causes concussion, the brain is typically shaken violently within the skull. The condition typically only lasts for a relatively short period, but can, in more extreme cases, persist for months or more (see post-concussion syndrome below). While they may not be immediately obvious, the signs and symptoms to watch out for include:
- A persistent headache
- Nausea / vomiting
- Loss of memory
- Impaired balance
- Altered sensation
- Irritability and / or mood swings
- Visual disturbance, e.g. double vision
- Struggling to remain awake
It is important to look for signs of change from normal behaviour as this could indicate an underlying concussion.
What should you do if you suspect you have concussion?
For mild symptoms, the NHS advises it should be possible to manage concussion at home, but if any advice is needed, to call the NHS 111 line.
In more severe cases, or where the presenting symptoms necessitate, it is recommended the patient be taken to A&E; this includes if the individual was knocked out in the incident, they have ongoing memory problems, they have vomited, there are sudden changes in behaviour, they have had brain surgery in the past, or they are taking blood thinning medication. In addition, given the breadth of symptoms, it is important that the injured individual does not take part in activities which could place themselves or others at risk, including riding a bicycle or driving.
The head injury should be treated as urgent - call 999 for an ambulance - if the patient was knocked unconscious and is still to reawaken, they cannot stay awake, they are experiencing numbness, there is bleeding from the ears, they had had a seizure, or the injury was caused by a serious accident.
What is post-concussion syndrome?
If you are required to go to hospital, the priority for the medical team will be to rule out a serious head injury. Patients with concussion will typically find their symptoms reduce within a matter of days, and to aid this, it is important they have adequate rest and sleep. In some cases, however, the symptoms do not lift quickly, and as a result, the individual may be diagnosed with ‘post-concussion syndrome’ (PCS).
PCS is typified by concussion symptoms which continue for many weeks and even months after the head injury, including persistent nausea, headaches, dizziness, impaired concentration, memory problems, extreme tiredness, intolerance to light and noise, and potentially anxiety and depression.
Such effects can be frightening for patients and can cause them to withdraw from their day to day, family, and working lives.
The factors which make PCS more likely to occur are not clear; however, there are several coping strategies which can be adopted to reduce the impact, including:
- Empowering the patient and their family with an understanding of what to expect. Unfortunately, not all doctors diagnose PCS as quickly as they should; therefore, it is important to make them aware of the occurrence of the head injury (even if a year ago).
- Aids to help the individual relax and calm themselves can assist considerably; this might include sunglasses to reduce the amount of light, and soothing music.
- A plan if the environment becomes too overwhelming – this might include a place to relax or sleep.
- Find a new activity or hobby to focus on.
- Find a confidante with whom you can express your feelings.
- Adopt a daily schedule which helps to conserve your energy.
- Use lists, reminders, diagrams, flowcharts, or any other manner of strategies to help you get through the day.
Over time, the effects of PCS should resolve as your brain continues to recover, but in the meantime, it is essential you seek all of the help and resources available to you.
Can I bring a claim if I suffer concussion following an accident?
It may be possible to make a claim for compensation if you have suffered concussion and/or PCS as a result of an accident or injury caused by another person or business entity. To do so, you will need to make your claim typically within three years of your injury (or when you were diagnosed), and it will be necessary to prove negligence occurred, and that this caused your injury.
A successful claim may lead to an award of damages you require to cover any pain and suffering you have incurred, and any costs to date (and those expected in the future), as a direct result of your head injury. By calling our team of specialist head injury Solicitors, we can advise if you have a valid claim and explain the process to you. Any compensation you receive will enable the person affected to fully focus their emotional and physical resources on their recovery.
If you wish to talk about any of the points raised in this article, please phone us on 0333 123 9099, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill in our contact form. Any discussions you have with us will be in the strictest of confidence.