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Toronto Personal Injury Law Blog

The financial and emotional toll of brain injuries can be severe

Two years ago, an 18-year-old woman in Ontario was hospitalized in critical condition. She was a rear seat passenger in a car that was involved in a crash that left her barely alive. Her aorta and bladder were torn, her lungs collapsed, and she had a fractured pelvis. Doctors had little hope because she suffered massive brain injuries that left her with bleeding on the brain, and she spent the following six weeks in a coma.

Against the expectations of medical professionals that she would be severely disabled if she survived, the young woman's will to recover took her back the campus of Western University barely six months later. She managed to attend summer school and catch up with her studies, allowing her to walk across the stage and accept her bachelor's degree in Medical Sciences (Honours). She is currently studying for a Global Health master's degree at McMaster University.

Now is the time to prevent falls that could cause brain injuries

Heading into winter, people across Canada, including Ontario, will be at a higher risk of slips or trips that lead to falls. Safety authorities say falls cause most brain injuries, and with the slippery conditions caused by ice and snow, they can happen at home, workplaces, shopping malls, restaurants, grocery stores and at entertainment events. Slippery surfaces could include sidewalks, stairways and interior walkways, as well as potential slip-and-trip hazards inside stores.

While most people take precautions to prevent such accidents in and around their homes, not all property owners are vigilant enough when it comes to prevention of slip-and-fall accidents. Abrasions, bruises, cracked or fractured ribs and limbs, back injuries and head trauma are all potential but preventable injuries typically caused by falls. Some could cause long-term health problems or even death.

Brain injuries: Survey shows lack of concussion knowledge

The Public Health Agency of Canada released the findings of an online survey to determine the level of knowledge residents in Ontario and other provinces have about concussion and its dangers. Authorities are concerned about the outcome. It indicated that about one half of all the respondents have little or no knowledge of the symptoms, prevention or available help when it comes to brain injuries.

Reportedly, almost all the respondents thought concussion symptoms last for only a few hours. In reality, dizziness, nausea, amnesia and headaches can continue for weeks or more, and repeated blows could cause permanent damage. Victims of multiple concussions can develop chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) that can result in major memory loss, degenerative brain disease, personality changes, irritability and severe impairment of the ability to focus attention and make decisions.

Brain injuries not limited to car and sports accidents

Organizations that advocate for people who are living with the consequences of head trauma are working to create more awareness. They say brain injuries are typically associated with automobile accidents and sports-related injuries while these types of injuries are much more widespread than that. A spokesperson for the Ontario Brain Injury Association says lives are often changed in seconds when people suffer blows to their heads.

Reportedly, brain injuries happen 15 times more often than injuries to the spinal cord, and breast cancer is 30 times less common than TBI. Ontario has more than 500,000 traumatic brain injury victims, and another 45,000 are expected suffer a TBI by the end of this year. Authorities say more than half those who are homeless in Ontario suffered brain injuries before they became homeless.

Repeated brain injuries can have life-altering consequences

A concern that has been mentioned often in recent media reports involves repeated head injuries. A neurologist at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto says that more Canadians suffer brain injuries every year than the combined total of those affected by HIV/AIDS, MS, breast cancer and spinal cord injuries. She says many brain injuries go unreported because they seem mild, but even repeated mild brain injuries can have severe consequences.

Any person who suffers brain trauma more than once is at risk of a condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy. This happens to football players and other athletes, and it could be similar to a punch drunk syndrome suffered by boxers. The doctor who first discovered CTE examined the brain of a deceased athlete who had a history of psychiatric and cognitive symptoms and found some of the abnormal proteins common in the brains of Alzheimer's disease patients.

Potential cognitive difficulties after suffering brain injuries

When anyone in Ontario or elsewhere receives a blow to the head in a car accident, on the sports field or due to an assault, the consequences could be life-changing. Traumatic brain injuries, including concussions, could cause cognitive problems that might resolve within days or weeks, but could last for months, and might even be permanent. It could prevent the victim from returning to work or school, and he or she may struggle to cope with normal activities and relationships.

Cognitive challenges typically involve difficulty with concentrating, paying attention, remembering, learning new things and making decisions. Those with other conditions such as attention deficit disorder, anxiety, mood disorders, learning disabilities and sleep disorders could be more severely affected than others are. Cognitive difficulties in those individuals typically last longer.

Teenager suffers brain injuries in assault by other youths

The grandmother of an Ontario teenager is telling others the story of the traumatizing time her family is going through, hoping to create awareness. It involves the assault of her 14-year-old grandson in a brutal attack by two other youths. The teenager's injuries are reported not to be life-threatening, but he is expected to suffer the consequences of serious brain injuries.

While a lot of attention, research, studies and advisories deal with protecting teens from suffering brain injuries in sports activities, the risks of assaults must not be ignored. This case is a perfect example of an apparently unprovoked attack that caused traumatic brain injuries. Reportedly, the boy was hospitalized with a fractured skull, concussion and a bleeding brain. Furthermore, the attack also left him with hearing loss.

Brain injuries: Symptoms and consequences

Sometimes people in Ontario and other provinces or territories suffer blows to their heads without realizing the harm that was done because symptoms might be delayed. When symptoms do appear, they might not be associated with the incident, thereby delaying the diagnosis and prompt treatment of brain injuries. The complications of brain injuries can be limited by early treatment.

Others might notice telltale signs of brain injuries in a friend or family member, which might include a slow response in answering questions, slurred speech, a vacant stare, staggered walking and confusion, along with weakness or numbness on one side of his or her body. Symptoms that the victim might become aware of headaches and dizziness, impaired vision and light sensitivity. There could be vomiting or nausea, short-term memory problems and concentration and thinking could become a problem.

Brain injuries: Study suggests children recover quickly

Care for children with concussions worldwide, including in Ontario, will likely benefit from research done at a university in another province and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A co-author of a report that was recently released says the work done at an integrated concussion research program will assist physicians who have to deal with concussions in children. He says many cases are not reported, but the reported cases of children suffering mild traumatic brain injuries have doubled over recent years, which might be due to more awareness.

Any jolt or bump to the head can cause the brain to bounce inside the skull, and brain cells could be damaged. However, the study suggests that parents should not overreact and have CT scans, X-rays and blood tests done unless significant symptoms are present. The author says most children recover fully from mild traumatic brain injuries in a reasonably short period.

Caring for a loved one with brain injuries takes a heavy toll

Some types of injuries after Ontario accidents affect not only the victims but also those who provide care -- often a spouse, a parent or even an adult child if the injured party is a parent. Brain injuries, for example, affect everyone around the victim because caring for that person could be extremely demanding and stressful. Caring for a loved one adds to the caregiver's usual responsibilities, and while it might be manageable at first, stress can build up, and the lack of breaks can lead to emotional exhaustion.

Stress typically develops from thoughts of how much must be done, how little time is available and the consequences of not doing what has to be done correctly. The accumulation of stress can leave the care provider feeling out of control of his or her own life, reducing the quality of life, which could also cause health problems. Common stress symptoms include headaches, sleep disorders, fatigue and memory problems.

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