Suffering a TBI without a Head Injury

Traditionally, traumatic brain injury was defined as a trauma to the head that results in a decreased level of consciousness, amnesia, other neurologic or neuropsychologic abnormalities, skull fractures, intracranial lesions, or death.[1]  Originally, a trauma or blow to the head was viewed as the only cause of a traumatic brain injuries (TBIs).  However, the modern definition has expanded the scope of circumstances under which a traumatic brain injury can occur.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently define a TBI as follows:  A TBI is caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain.  This definition properly acknowledges that the external force that can cause injury to the brain can be in the form of a blow or trauma to the head (e.g. from striking an object), or can also be caused by a rapid acceleration-deceleration event where there is usually no head injury or damage to the skull/scalp.  So, can a person get a TBI without a head injury?  The answer is yes.

The most common term used to describe an acceleration-deceleration event is “Whiplash.”  It is called whiplash because of the head’s lashing motion during the event that causes the injury.  However, acceleration-deceleration is a more accurate description of what is actually happening inside the skull.

The most common scenarios where an acceleration-deceleration can take place, and which can result in a TBI are rear-end collisions.[2]  For example, during a car accident the head and extremities continue moving forward despite the fact the car has suddenly stopped.  The head, arms, and legs continue accelerating until something stops them (e.g. when your head hits the windshield or dashboard).  The same acceleration-deceleration action happens inside the skull as the brain continues moving forward until it is stopped by the skull.  In these cases, the brain literally bounces back and forth within the skull.

Another common and very unfortunate cause of an acceleration-deceleration event is when an adult shakes a child violently, which is commonly referred to as shaken baby syndrome, abusive head trauma, or inflicted traumatic brain injury.  This event is the leading cause of death in child abuse cases.[3]

Whatever the cause of the acceleration-deceleration event may be, there are usually two points of injury in these type of cases.  The first one is on the side of where the impact was received which is called coup injury.  The second injury occurs on the opposite side where the skull was impacted, which is called contrecoup injury. 

Even though both type of injuries caused during an acceleration-deceleration event are generally considered focal brain injuries, meaning those that occur in a particular spot in the brain, as opposed to diffuse injuries, which occur over a more widespread area of the brain, they should not be taken lightly.  Whiplash like motions are in fact considered a major cause of mild traumatic brain injuries which can cause devastating and life-changing effects in 15% of the victims.  This group of victims is commonly referred to as the miserable minority.  For more information about this topic, please read our blog titled “What is the Miserable Minority?”

As attorneys who specialize in TBI cases, we understand the gravity of this type of injury regardless of how the injury may have occurred (blow, jolt, acceleration-deceleration event).  Above all, we understand the devastating consequences that such injuries may cause. We will thoroughly analyze your particular situation from the cause of the injury, the type of tests, and procedures performed to you by emergency room professionals, and/or treating physicians, to the symptoms you are currently experiencing.  We feel true compassion for TBI victims and will do everything in our power you get fully compensated for your injury and damages, including your pain and suffering.  Contact us today for a free evaluation of your case.




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