The following will inform you, from both a medical and legal standpoint, on what to do when you’ve been injured.
When we are unexpectedly and acutely injured, our bodies release a quick, potent “dose” of adrenaline, epinephrine and cortisol. This allows us to mask pain and allow us to do what is necessary to escape immediate danger. While this marvel of biological evolution often allows us to escape dangerous situations, it is critical to be aware of its potential negative consequences.
In almost every case of an acute, traumatic injury, the injury will not cause pain reflective of the actual injury for minutes, hours, or sometimes days after the injury is incurred. A lot of additional damage can be done in that time.
I personally recall suffering a broken left foot during a high school football practice. I heard the snap, felt a good deal of pain, and knew that I needed to go to the emergency room. A coach had one of my teammates run to the locker room and get me a crutch. Still, with minimal help from the crutch, I was able to get to my car a couple of hundred yards away, and drive myself to the E.R. without any additional help.
When I arrived at the ER, I parked in the regular parking lot; not in the emergency ER drop off area. I opened my door, positioned the crutch outside the door, spun, and put my right foot down. Braced with my crutch under my left arm, I went to get up. I then barely touched my broken left foot to the ground when immediately went down like a big sack of potatoes. Fortunately, I did not crack my head open or injure anything other than my pride. This was no more than 20 minutes after I walked myself a couple of hundred yards from the practice field to my car barely using a crutch.
While the imagery of the above story may be funny, the potential fallout is not. If you feel pain, consider allowing someone to call you an ambulance. We all just want to “get on with it,” and carry on with our day. But sometimes this can have dangerous results, whether it leads to disorientation, a delay in treating an injury that would benefit from immediate medical attention, or worse.
If you truly think you’ve been injured in an accident, you probably have. Trust your instinct and undergo a medical evaluation. Worst case scenario, they will provide you with conservative treatment and instruction on how best to recover. Best case scenario, the timeliness of your evaluation may save you significant time, pain, and expense in the recovery process.
Special Considerations for Head Injuries
The developing science concerning head injuries is startling.
Many of us who sustained concussions in years past considered it nothing more than getting our “bell rung.” However, a tidal wave of scientific study of concussions and head injuries over the past decade (largely a result of ongoing litigation in the NFL) has shone an extraordinarily bright light on just how dangerous concussions/traumatic brain injuries (“TBI”) are.
One of the scariest things about concussions is what can happen when they fail to be diagnosed or treated. Adding to this problem is the fact that many brain injuries are sustained without the injured person having even struck their head. Naturally, one would think that whatever serious symptoms they may be suffering could not be from a concussion. They’re thus far less likely to seek medical attention than someone who struck their head and was suffering from the same symptoms.
Unlike many other animals, humans do not have any mechanism in place keeping the brain in place other than the skull. The only thing preventing it from crashing into our skulls upon regular movement is something called cerebrospinal fluid. When someone suffers a whiplash type injury, cerebrospinal fluid is not enough to protect the brain from slamming into the front and rear of the skull.
Of course, this also applies when one strikes their head on the ground, door frame of the car, the headrest of the car seat, or on anything else for that matter. In fact, I have seen clients who have sustained concussions from being struck by the airbag in their car.
One of the initial symptoms of a concussion is headache. While headaches can sometimes be caused by neck strains or other neck injuries, be aware of it. Do not write it off. If you are receiving medical attention, be certain to report it to the caregiver. If the headache persists more than one hour, you should absolutely seek medical attention if you have not already.
If you have sustained any loss of consciousness, without question seek immediate medical attention. Tell the doctors exactly how and when it happened. There are few bigger red flags that your brain has sustained injury than loss of consciousness.
Other symptoms to be aware of include:
- Change in vision
- Difficulty with short or long term memory
- Difficulty with “word retrieval” – I.e., finding words in conversation or writing that your typically would not have difficulty finding
- Increased mood swings
- Difficulty with speech
- Hypersensitivity to light
- Hypersensitivity to sound
- Difficulty concentrating
We have even seen concussions/TBIs manifest themselves in sleep apnea and erectile dysfunction.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, document them and contact your doctor immediately. If you do not have a doctor, go to your local emergency room.