The brain itself is made of soft, Jello-like tissue. It’s not a fixed, hardened structure like you find in bones. The brain consists of millions of very fine nerve fibers and floats around inside a hardened skull, in cerebral-spinal fluid. When the head is suddenly struck or is violently shaken or strikes a solid stationary object, the utter force of this motion goes directly to the brain.
When the head rotates during trauma, the brain inside also moves, twists and turns and undergoes forces that cause the brain-matter to move. Sudden movements of the head or forces directly hitting the head cause the brain tissue to move although the brain is protected within the skull and is highly resilient. This type of motion stretches, squeezes and may even tear the neural brain cells. To maintain the precise distance between neural cells and the delicate balance needed to effectively process and send messages between cells requires a calm, stable environment. When brain cells are squeezed and stretched due to these kinds of forces this delicate balance is altered and this can easily cause problems in the brain’s processing of information.
When the brain is subjected to a forceful movement or violent force of any kind, the soft brain that is merely floating, is suddenly slammed into the skull’s rough and uneven interior. The lower surface on the inside of the skull is particularly rough and bony and this can damage the fragile brain tissues as it is slammed across the internal surface. Sometimes the brain even rotates when this happens. This kind of friction can easily strain and stretch the brain’s delicate thread-sized axons or nerve cells.
This stretching and the resulting swelling of the tiny axons within the brain may appear relatively insignificant but the impact this has on the brain’s neurological make-up and circuits can be substantial. Even an injury considered “mild” could cause major physiological damage resulting in significant cognitive deficits.
Another problem that results from a mild brain injury is the changes that affect the neuron’s ability for producing the energy to keep the cells’ critical functions going in the mitochondria. When an injury first happens there is an increase in the production of energy, but then this is followed by a major decrease in energy, affecting the cell’s ability to produce the structural proteins needed to maintain the diameter and size of the axon. This damage occurs gradually over time after the impact and could be the reason for the delay in observable symptoms.
As the injured person recovers, the cells begin re-establishing their delicate balance that ensures the effective processing of information, however this may require some adjustments be made in the neural cell’s previous alignments. The more that neural cells are required to compensate or adjust to having been injured, the less able they are to perform tasks as efficiently. It takes them longer and they may not even be able to complete them. For example, when someone sprains or breaks their ankle, medical professionals provide various cold and heat treatments, they rest and their injury is supported with a cast or brace. They have physical therapy, doing exercises that help their ankle adjust to being injured while recovering maximal function. Depending on how severe the ankle injury is and what is needed after recovering (i.e., ballet dancing, marathon running) the ankle injury can severely disrupt this person’s lifestyle.
Clearly, the human brain is far more complex than an ankle. However, the brain needs to be treated in a similar fashion with rest, certain compensations and “exercises,” which consist of various therapies and education. This is all needed for the brain to fully rehabilitate and be restored to useful function. Depending on how severe the brain injury is and what responsibilities the person needs to fulfill in life, like taking care of their family, returning to work, and/or running a large company, a mild brain injury can certainly disrupt someone’s life for a period of time and sometimes a long period of time.
If you or a loved one has suffered a traumatic brain injury, contact O’Connor, Runckel & O’Malley and we will provide you with a free consultation with an experienced traumatic brain and head injury lawyer. At O’Connor & Runckel & O’Malley, we make sure you have the resources necessary for the evaluation and diagnosis of all types of head injuries.
Published on behalf of O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley LLP