What disabilities can result from brain injuries?

Two years after retiring, Junior Seau, a popular linebacker in the National Football League (NFL) known for his passionate play, took his own life. While his death on May 2, 2012 shocked the football world, it also brought to light the problem of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a rare condition caused by traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) that usually affects people who play football and other contact sports.

The Mayo Clinic said CTE can only be diagnosed after studying sections of the brain. Five brain specialists consulted by the National Institutes of Health confirmed that Seau had CTE as a result of a lot of head-to-head collisions he sustained while playing in the NFL for 20 years.

Prior to his death, Seau’s ex-wife, Gina, and his oldest son, Tyler, noted drastic changes in his behavior. They revealed that Seau was moody, depressed, and emotionally detached. Doctors say this is consistent with the symptoms of CTE, which include emotional instability and suicidal thoughts or behavior.

Extent of TBIs

TBIs affect an estimated 2.8 million Americans yearly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Those affected are not always into contact sports, but people can acquire it through falls, collisions involving cars or motorcycles, violence, or many types of accidents in the workplace.

TBIs are responsible for 50,000 deaths and 282,000 hospitalizations annually. Those who survive may suffer from disabilities depending on the site of the injury, its severity, and the patient’s age and health.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke said common TBI disabilities include problems with behavior, cognition, communication, and sensory processing. Of the four, doctors say the most difficult disability to handle is behavioral problems. This is characterized by anger, anxiety, confusion, depression, insomnia, irritability, mood swings, and paranoia. Victims may be aggressive, violent, childish, and have emotional outbursts. Or they may suffer from developmental stagnation, meaning they remain immature emotionally, socially, or psychologically after a TBI.

Amnesia and TBIs

Cognitive disabilities refer to the loss of mental skills. Victims may forget certain memories or find it difficult to form or store new ones. They may have post-traumatic amnesia (PTA), which is classified as anterograde or retrograde. Anterograde PTA refers to impaired memory after the TBI, while retrograde PTA happens before the injury.

People with cognitive disabilities are easily confused or distracted and have problems with concentration and attention. They also have difficulty in reasoning, planning, organizing, solving problems, and making judgments.

How TBIs hinder communication

Language and communication problems are also common with TBIs. Some may suffer from aphasia — difficulty in understanding and producing spoken and written language. This can either be non-fluent or fluent. In non-fluent aphasia, also called Broca's aphasia or motor aphasia, victims have trouble recalling words and speaking in complete sentences. They may speak in broken phrases and pause frequently.

On the other hand, those with fluent aphasia, also known as Wernicke's aphasia or sensory aphasia, speak gibberish, even though they use correct grammar. People with this condition are unaware that they don’t make sense and become angry if others don’t understand them.

Lastly, victims with sensory problems may have difficulty recognizing objects and suffer from impaired hand-eye coordination. Because of this, they tend to bump into things or drop objects. Other symptoms are blind spots or double vision, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), dizziness, a bitter taste in the mouth, and persistent skin tingling, itching, or pain.

Are you suffering a TBI because of a work-related injury? Did you sustain a TBI in an accident that was due to someone’s neglect such as an auto wreck or truck accident? You may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits or personal injury recovery. To enjoy the full benefits of the law, get help from a workers’ compensation specialist in North Carolina like Maggie Shankle of Shankle Law Firm, PA. Maggie will fight for you, so you will be compensated for medical expenses and lost wages. Call her today and worry no more.