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Motorcyclists and Traumatic Brain Injuries

View profile for Elizabeth Tolmie
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On 7 April 2022, a paramedic for the London Ambulance Service's motorcycle response unit was involved in a five-vehicle crash while undertaking a training course with the North Wales Police driver training unit. He was rushed to hospital but died of a severe brain injury six days later.

Unfortunately, in the case of motorcycle crashes, the rider is at an especially high risk of suffering head injuries due to the reduced protection compared to drivers of cars or bigger vehicles.

The latest statistics have shown that head injuries are the most common cause of death and serious injury in motorcyclists. Usually this is a traumatic brain injury (TBI) where the brain incurs damage due to a blow or jolt within the skull.

The effect of a TBI can be mild and the treatment for such will include rest and medication recommended by a doctor. However, the effects are all too often life-threatening particularly if the impact the brain suffered was severe. In these instances, the treatment required may be:

  • Neurocritical care, involving a ventilator and seizure monitoring
  • Medication to prevent seizures, infection and manage pain
  • Surgery such as a decompressive craniectomy which allows swelling in the brain to expand

Everyone who suffers a TBI will recover differently and do so at their own pace. Even when treatment has been given, those who are lucky enough to survive their TBI can still have long-term side effects from their injury. These might include:

Behavioural effects

There are many ways that a TBI can change a person’s behaviour. It can alter previous characteristics, or some may become more exaggerated than before. In some instances, a person’s behaviour may change completely. Some of the most common changes that people note in those who have suffered a TBI are impulsiveness, irritability, and obsessive behaviour.

Communication problems

How the brain enables us to communicate not only with others but with the rest of the body is an extremely complex process. Suffering a TBI can affect how well this is done and can require different types of treatment to allow the brain to be retrained. A common example of a long-term impact on the ability to communicate is difficulty with speech. This can either be a physical struggle to talk due to damaged muscles which are used to talk, or disorders such as dyspraxia which means that people have difficulties saying what it is they are thinking.

There could also be other long-term communication issues such as concentration difficulties, memory problems and cognitive fatigue. This means that a person will begin to struggle more with their cognitive communication once they become fatigued.

Physical effects

When a person has suffered from a TBI, it is not just their brain that needs to recover. There can also be other physical effects. In some cases, a TBI can lead to weakness or paralysis. This often affects one side of the body more than the other, depending on which part of the brain was injured. Adapting to a life with these physical limitations can mean that adaptions have to be made. There may be a need for adapted accommodation, mobility aids and often private care. In the case of weakness, a doctor may refer a person for physiotherapy to try to regain some strength and improve their use or movement of the affected body parts.

A brain injury can also lead people to develop epilepsy. Seizures can develop in someone who has suffered a TBI anywhere from 24 hours after the accident to weeks, months and even years after an accident. This is known as Post-Traumatic Epilepsy and approximately 1 in 50 people who suffer a TBI will go on to develop it. A doctor will usually prescribe an anti-seizure medication to try and control seizures as quickly as possible, but it can be a recurrent problem that a person will have for the rest of their life.

Suffering a TBI can be something that changes a person’s life in many aspects. If you or a loved one have suffered a traumatic brain injury as the result of a road traffic collision or other accident, please contact us and speak to one of our friendly specialist solicitors for a free no-obligation discussion on 0121 355 0011.