traumatic brain injury recovery

Can Traumatic Brain Injuries Be Predicted (And Prevented)?

The future of data may hold the answer

If you Google “traumatic brain injury”, you’ll see a lot of articles and research about sports-related brain injuries, yet the reality is that the majority of brain injury cases are the result of motor vehicle accidents.

“Motor vehicle crashes are the most common cause of emergency room visits, hospitalizations and deaths related to traumatic brain injury among people aged 15 to 34, according to a 2013 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” (Source)

In fact, brain injury is the “leading cause of death and disability for Canadians under the age of 40”, more than MS, spinal cord injuries, HIV/AIDS and breast cancer combined.

What if there was a way that a motor vehicle accident could be evaluated so as to predict the likelihood of the injured persons in the crash having a traumatic brain injury (TBI)?

That solution might just be around the corner.

Stepping Back: What’s A TBI?

A TBI—traumatic brain injury—is where the cells in the brain are damaged by a traumatic event occurring outside the body. A person can have a TBI as a result of a fall, being hit in an assault, a gunshot wound, sports injuries, combat injuries such as a blast. But the most common way people end up with a TBI is a motor vehicle accident. We commonly discuss concussions as being mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBIs) but the symptoms vary widely, depending on severity.

A person suffering from a TBI could manifest in a variety of ways:

  • Physical issues such as fatigue, mobility problems, speech problems, changes in vision and more.
  • Cognitive issues such as memory loss, difficulty with problem solving and decision making, lack of concentration and so on.
  • Emotional / behavioural impacts can include irritability, depression, over emotional responses, lack of self-control or impulse control, difficulty with social situations and more.

The seriousness of the TBI is what determines how many impacts a person suffers, but the results can be intense as the injury can lead to difficulty maintaining employment, staying in school or keeping up family relations.

Early Treatment Is Key In Dealing With Traumatic Brain Injury

As always, if you’re in a car accident, I’ll always recommend that you do these three things:

  1. Call your doctor—if you’re not being transported to the hospital after the crash, get in to see your doctor as soon as possible.
  2. Call your lawyer — the effects of TBI can impact quality of life and ability to work in important ways. You may need to be off work or have intensive rehabilitation. For this to happen, you need to have your lawyer on the case from day 1.
  3. Document everything — how you feel, what your doctor said, any receipts… Keep everything because you might need it when it comes to figuring out the compensation you’re entitled to.

When it comes to TBI, number 1 is most important because early detection and treatment can lead to much better outcomes. While many victims of traumatic brain injury will deal with some effects for the rest of their lives, these can be minimized by getting treatment as quickly as possible. Even if you’re not sure if you might have a TBI, check with your doctor. Diagnosis and a treatment plan initiated sooner rather than later will help.

The Latest Tool To Evaluate The Likelihood Of A TBI, Post MVA

The most interesting thing about TBIs in a car crash is that the crash will either cause a person to have a TBI, or it won’t. The likelihood of a TBI being a result of the accident depends on many factors, including the vehicle type, weight, the age of the victim, the velocity at impact and so on.

Aerospace and mechanical engineering professor Samy Missoum from the University of Arizona, along with graduate student Seyed Saeed Ahmadisoleymani published a paper in Computer Methods in Biomechanics and Biomedical Engineering entitled “Construction of a risk model through the fusion of experimental data and finite element modeling: Application to car crash-induced TBI.”

 The crux of their research is to examine what factors combine in a motor vehicle accident to calculate the probability of injury victims having a TBI. Past research into TBIs has been based on experimental data—such as data reported from actual car crashes and simulations conducted with car crash dummies—and computational data, which are mathematical calculations to predict the outcome when a brain is exposed to external trauma.

By combining the two types of data, Missoum has been able to take simulation data, such as how a dummy moves during an accident, and apply that against computer models of the brain reacting, adding other pieces of information such as force, velocity and impact angle. The result is a calculated probability of an accident resulting in a TBI.

“Unlike with American football or military applications, there has not been much research done into the link between car crashes and TBI,” Missoum said. “We have developed the first steps of a method to assess the probability of TBI based on crash conditions, such as impact velocity and angle.” (Source)

Their goal is to create a tool where first responders will be able to punch in data at the accident scene and determine the likelihood of the injured having TBIs. This information will help paramedics and trauma teams to determine their next steps. It will also help victims to realize that they need to get help: from their doctor and their lawyer, to set up a plan for their rehabilitation and a way to pay for it.


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