Do You Need Your Head Examined?

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Have you ever felt dizzy, nauseous, or confused following an automobile crash, even when it was minor? If so, you probably sustained a concussion. You don't even need to hit your head on something to be concussed. In fact, it is possible to sustain a concussion doing almost anything; riding a bike, sneezing, and the like. Any activity where the head snaps suddenly can result in a concussion.

What are Concussions?

Concussions are nothing more than the brain moving around and crashing into your skull. It sounds unpleasant, and it is. Despite the advent of fantastic technological advances to minimize injury to automobile occupants, there is almost no way to insulate people from the risk of concussions. Unless your car is equipped with the HANS head and neck restraint systems race cars have, you are at risk if you are in a crash.

I have been practicing personal injury law for over 25 years now, and I've never seen a higher rate of concussion than what I see now. It is likely that improvements in technology are preventing and minimizing some injuries that once were prevalent (broken bones, knee injuries from striking the dashboard), but leading to an increase in others (concussions, neck and back injuries).

Concussions and Whiplash Are Connected

Concussions are often caused by the same mechanism that causes what is commonly termed "whiplash," the rapid movement forward and back of the head following an impact. While head restraints and belting systems limit the amount of movement of the head, without the literal locking in of the HANS system, there is no complete prevention of head movement. Thus, the increased rate of concussions in motor vehicle crashes.

The Mechanics of Concussions and Whiplash

Think about it. You sit stationary while your car is catapulted forward by another vehicle striking it. The first thing that moves is your head, which weighs as much as 11 pounds. Your brain alone is 3 pounds. That's more than half a bag of charcoal for your grill whipping forward at tens of miles per hour, depending upon the speed at which you are hit, the amount of force (size of the other vehicle and yours), and other factors. It's no wonder your neck muscles, tendons, and ligaments are traumatized! Your head will actually move faster than the speed at which you were hit in most cases.

That's what whiplash is, after all, a tearing of the muscles, ligaments, and tendons that support your head, neck, and shoulders. When you hear about "soft tissue" injuries, they sound innocuous, but when you really understand what happens to those muscles, ligaments, and tendons, it's not just painful; it can be permanent.

Symptoms of a Head Injury

When should you suspect a head injury? These are the symptoms to look for:

  • headache
  • confusion
  • difficulty with memory or word recall
  • vomiting or nausea
  • difficulty concentrating or tracking a conversation
  • sensitivity to light
  • sensitivity to noise
  • increased symptoms with even light movement

What To Do

If you have any of these symptoms, get to a doctor immediately and follow up with a neurologist. Concussions can be difficult to diagnose objectively. Often, objective diagnostic tests, such as CT or MRI scans, yield a “negative” result. Nevertheless, a trained neurologist will diagnose a concussion and/or Post-Concussion Syndrome (PCS).


While there is much improvement in treatment of concussions and Post-Concussion Syndrome (PCS), there is simply no known cure or timetable for recovery. Some patients recover in days, while others continue to have problems for years.


One thing I always tell people who are in any vehicular crash (trucks, cars, motorcycles, and bicycles too!) is to make sure they get examined for head injury if they have any of the symptoms mentioned above. I also suggest strongly they follow up with a neurologist to make sure a trained professional who specializes in these injuries examines them.

If you are involved in a crash, don’t be a hero and tough it out. Make sure you get checked out and received proper diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring. Better safe than sorry.

Categories: General