Preventing Traumatic Brain Injury in Car Crashes

doctor analyzing brain injuryThe National Institutes of Neurological Disorders indicates that 1.4 million people sustain traumatic brain injury (TBI) every year. Except for in the elderly population, half of TBI cases are the result of transportation accidents. Car drivers, passengers, motorcycle riders and pedestrians are all at risk. Sadly, TBI causes more long-term disability in children and adults than any other medical condition.

The forces generated in an auto accident may be greater than most people realize. Even in low-speed collisions, the total force acting on the body includes the speeds of both cars, amplifying force of impact. Although the body has systems designed to protect the brain from impact, Mother Nature never had car crashes in mind.

The bones of the skull create a protective shield around the brain. Cerebrospinal fluids surround the brain, absorbing the shock waves from everyday impacts that may occur from a light fall or horseplay. But the liquid cannot absorb the shock from a car crash. The physics principle that an object in motion tends to stay in motion explains how to brain may be injured in a crash, even without any direct impact with the head.

The body comes to a sudden halt at the point of impact, but the brain, resting in cerebrospinal fluid, continues its forward motion, crashing against the skull. The head will whip back the same time, magnifying the impact. The head then whips forward, causing the brain to then impact the back of the skull. The force of these movements also injures the neck by over extending it, commonly known as whiplash.

Hidden Danger

Unfortunately, serious car crashes often result in other injuries that may take the attention of treating physicians first. It is common for ER physicians to treat other more obvious injuries and overlook TBI altogether. More than 80 % of TBI cases go undiagnosed during the ER visit.

The patient may notice seizures, headaches, problems with vision and sleep disturbance.  Other common symptoms include impairments to memory, concentration, language skills and visual perception. Other cognitive deficits may be seen in problem-solving, logical reasoning, judgment and organization.  Emotions may also be affected through moodiness, personality changes, intense emotional reactions, depression and anxiety. These changes may be temporary but are sometimes permanent and debilitating.

How to Prevent TBI in Car Accidents

The best way to prevent TBI is to use proper safety equipment and drive safety. Children need appropriate car seats and adults should always wear seatbelts. Speeding increases the danger of TBI, so drive within the speed limit.



Whenever you are in a car accident be careful to seek immediate treatment and tell the doctor about any cognitive or sensory abnormalities you notice. Write down your symptoms no matter how small and mention your concern about TBI to the ER physician. Ask for a CT scan to diagnose the injury properly.


If you suffered TBI from a car crash, and believe the other party is at fault, be sure to contact our office for a free case evaluation of your case.

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