06 Mar 2023

The little clues which show you may be concussed…and why you should seek legal & medical advice

According to NHS inform, concussion is the “sudden but short-lived loss of mental function that occurs after a blow or other injury to the head”[1]. It adds that concussion is “the most common but least serious type of brain injury” and that “…the medical term for concussion is minor traumatic brain injury”.

So whilst a concussion is sometimes perceived to be an almost innocuous occurrence – the kind we usually associate with a sports field injury or an assault, or road traffic accident – the reality can be very different.

For, as indeed NHS inform attests to, a concussion is very much a traumatic brain injury. And even if ‘minor’ (or ‘mild’ as is the common term), the consequences can still be devastating for those that do not recover quickly.

Indeed, the effects of a concussion aren’t always immediately evident, and instead can gradually develop over time, with the person concerned not realising that they are suffering from it.

The signs are there but people often do not recognise them, particularly if they have been in an accident or incident, may be in pain and/or on medication. In fact, patients could be suffering from a range of over two dozen symptoms, including headaches, fatigue, poor memory, poor concentration, light sensitivity, sadness, anxiety, getting easily irritated, dizziness and even feeling worn out after a good night’s sleep.

And if their injury has been caused by a third party – for example, in the case of an accident, violence or even a fall – then it would also be advisable to seek legal advice from a specialist in cases involving Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and ideally with a speciality in concussion.

“Even though someone may have had a brain scan after an impact or violent shake to their head and no bleed has been found, they may still have suffered a concussion as concussions cannot be seen on a brain scan,“ explains Philip Coulthurst, MD of the specialist brain injury lawyers Coulthursts.

If you have been examined for concussion and your symptoms worsen, or if you later become aware of further symptoms – including those that make you feel nauseous or affect your thinking processes, or if you have worsening headaches, dizziness, problems with balance, slurred speech, loss of consciousness, sleepiness, weakness (and many other possible symptoms besides) – then you should return to A&E immediately. Note: You should have been given a head injury advice leaflet at A&E,  which among other things will advise you when you should return to A&E. It is important you follow the advice you have been given by any doctor.

Conversely, if you did not receive a head injury advice leaflet, then you should be able to find information online from the hospital you went to, but always err on the side of caution. You can also ring NHS 111 if you are unsure what to do and there are many useful sources of information to be found online, including this leaflet from Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust – https://rb.gy/g1hwii

“Most people recover quickly from a concussion or head injury, but a significant minority, particularly those whose injury was severe enough to go to hospital, do not,” adds Coulthurst. “Often, they can go on to suffer ongoing persisting symptoms.”

A concussion is clinically known as a mild TBI, although in the UK the words concussion and head injury are more commonly used. In fact, around 90% of those attending A&E with a head injury are classified as a concussion or mild head injury.

“Most concussions occur without a loss of consciousness,” explains Coulthurst, “yet, for those who do not fully recover, this can be anything but mild and can affect a person’s day-to-day life, including their personal relationships and ability to work.”

Indeed, according to one study, it “…is becoming clear that ‘mild’ is indeed a misnomer for this disease, because many patients experience significant and persistent symptoms. For these patients, mild Traumatic Brain Injury [Concussion] is anything but mild.”[2]

“The challenge with this is that it can then be extremely difficult to access healthcare and treatment for those who suffer ongoing problems following a concussion,” concludes Coulthurst, “and treatment can often be limited to focusing on one symptom or issue such as headaches or emotional problems.”

“As part of our service when representing clients, we are often able to help secure access to the best treatment and rehabilitation for concussion, mild TBI and post-concussion syndrome, and our focus is to do this as soon as possible and often long before any claim is settled. This helps to ensure that the necessary treatment, which our clients would often struggle to secure any other way, is not only delivered, but also at the time they need it most.”

“So, if you, or someone you know, may still be suffering symptoms from a concussion or mild TBI, then please get in touch.”

[1] https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/injuries/head-and-neck-injuries/concussion#:~:text=Concussion%20is%20the%20sudden%20but,is%20minor%20traumatic%20brain%20injury.

[2] McMahon et al 2014 – Symptomatology and Functional Outcome in mTBI: Results from the prospective TRACK_TBI Study

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