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Brain Injury Awareness Month: 6 Types of Head Injuries You Could Suffer in a Truck Crash

Discover the Most Common Types of Head Injuries Caused by 18-Wheeler Wrecks

Tractor-trailer accidents and motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of head and brain injuries. Depending on the location and severity of the trauma, victims can end up developing a range of head and/or brain injuries, each of which can have its own complications and devastating impacts.

Examining mild to severe trauma, the following highlights 7 of the most common types of head injuries resulting from big rig wrecks.

1. Concussion

As a mild form of traumatic brain injury (TBI), concussion occurs when violent shaking or a direct blow to the head causes brain damage. Consequently, concussions can result from truck accidents when:

  • The impact of the crash forcefully jolts the head back and forth, damaging the brain as it hits the inside walls of the skull. In these cases, no object has to directly hit the head in order to cause the concussion. Additionally, these concussions tend to be paired with neck injuries, like whiplash.

  • The head hits the steering wheel or dashboard. Alternatively, other objects in the vehicle striking the head or hitting one’s head on the road could concuss victims.

Though concussions are milder brain injuries, they can still come with lasting impairments. That’s especially true if victims have prior concussions — or if they suffer subsequent concussions — because these TBIs can have cumulative complications.

2. Brain Bruising

Clinically referred to as brain contusions, brain bruising can happen in a similar manner to some concussions, occurring with the violent shaking of the head. Generally, brain bruising is more serious than milder concussions because:

  • Contusions can affect multiple sides of the brain: In these cases, damage to opposite sides of the brain (as the brain bounces back and forth — laterally or side-to-side — in the skull) are referred to as coup-contrecoup injuries.

  • Brain bruising can have severe complications: These could include bleeding in the brain, life-threatening increases in cranial pressure, seizures, and coma.

3. Closed-Head TBI

Closed-head traumatic brain injuries refer to any TBI that does not involve an open or penetrating wound to the head (e.g., the head remains “closed”). While concussions are mild forms of closed-head injuries, this trauma can be far more severe as well. In those serious cases, complications may include (and are not limited to):

  • Skull fractures
  • Brain bleeding and/or contusions
  • Leakage of the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)

Depending on the severity of a closed head injury, truck accident victims may experience symptoms like headaches, nausea, scalp bruising, facial swelling, and/or bleeding from the eyes.

Understanding these symptoms is crucial because the lack of an obvious open wound can make closed-head injuries more challenging to recognize. That’s especially true for milder cases that are typically marked by generic or latent symptoms.

4. Skull Fractures

If any object hits the head violently enough during a truck wreck, victims can sustain skull fractures. Depending on the force and how the head is hit, these fractures may present as:

  1. Linear skull fractures: As the most common and typically the mildest type of skull fracture, these injuries involve a break to the bone while leaving the structure of the skull in place. Think of these injuries like a crack in an in-tact windshield. 

  2. Depressed skull fractures: When an impact with a downward force breaks the skull, fractured parts of the skull can sink in toward the brain. These injuries, which can cause severe TBIs, often require surgery to prevent further complications. 

  3. Basilar skull fractures: As the most severe type of skull fracture, these injuries occur at the base of the skull. That can result in a range of potentially life-threatening complications, including brain bleeding and CSF leakage.

5. Brain Bleeding

Also known as brain hemorrhaging, brain bleeding is a medical emergency requiring immediate treatment to reduce the risk of deadly complications. This bleeding can be localized to specific tissues or a distinct area of the brain when just one blood vessel ruptures. It can be far more widespread, however, when walls of blood vessels are sheared off during an 18-wheeler accident.

6. Deadly TBIs

More than 60,000 people die from traumatic brain injury each year, and many of these fatal TBIs result from 18-wheeler crashes and other traffic collisions. In fact, beyond causing fatal TBIs on the spot, big rig wrecks can also cause severe head and brain injuries that end up having deadly complications weeks, months, or years after the initial trauma was sustained.

How to Recover from Truck Accident Head Injuries & TBIs

No matter what type of head or brain injury results from an 18-wheeler crash, it’s vital that victims get immediate medical care. That can make the difference in receiving life-improving or life-saving treatments. It can also help victims start to document some of the trauma and losses they suffered as a result of a tractor-trailer wreck. And that can be crucial when it’s time to file a truck accident claim to pursue full, fair compensation for medical bills and other losses caused by the crash.