Anyone in a motor vehicle accident in Virginia, whether a car occupant, a motorcycle rider or even a pedestrian or cyclist, may sustain a traumatic brain injury. In fact, TBIs can occur even if there is no blow to the head. According to MedicineNet, even if a person never loses consciousness, the trauma of a car accident can cause initially minor issues that could turn into life-threatening injuries.

The skull keeps the brain from being damaged when something hits the head, but it can’t absorb the impact. So, a direct blow may cause brain damage at that site, but the force could cause the head to snap back and the brain to smash against the skull, causing damage to a different part of the brain. The forward and backward motion that causes whiplash could also cause the brain to collide with the skull. 

Bleeding inside the skull can begin with a tiny broken blood vessel, but if it is not identified by a doctor, the blood can pool and clot gradually over days and weeks. This creates pressure between the brain and the skull, and can lead to damage. Bruises, or contusions, can also cause swelling and pressure that builds over time. These factors are the primary reason that a person could feel relatively fine after the accident, but have such serious side effects as seizures or paralysis later.

The risk of bleeding is greater for some people. For example, the brain shrinks as the body ages, and that creates more area between the brain and the skull. Consequently, the blood vessels are stretched and more easily torn. Someone taking a blood thinner for hypertension may also develop severe brain damage from a blow that would heal quickly in a healthy body because of the increased likelihood of bleeding.

MedlinePlus.gov warns that people should be on the alert for symptoms of brain damage such as confusion, weakness or numbness, loss of coordination, changing sleep patterns, irritability or other changes. Any of these could be caused by other health problems, and failing to connect them to the accident could result in dangerously delayed treatment.