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3 Surprising Causes of Brain Injury

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) and its causes have been all over the news in the last few years. Headlines on the effect of concussions suffered in football have provoked an ongoing national conversation. The effect of the repeated pummelings boxers endure has become increasingly clear. Lack of oxygen to the brain during birth or surgery, and its effect on brain functioning, is well-known.

But sometimes the causes of brain injury are very unexpected, like these three.

Surprising Cause #1: The Immune System

The body’s immune system springs into action to protect us from disease and the effects of injury. It should always be positive, right?

Well, research published in the medical journal Acta Neuropathologica Communications indicates that the immune system’s workings may have unexpected effects on brain functioning. The authors suggest that head trauma causes deterioration of the barrier between blood and brain. As a result, the blood’s immune cells — which normally have no contact with brain cells — begin to destroy the cells in the brain.

The study, performed on mice, indicates that preventing one of the elements of the immune system would stop the damage.

The authors believe that, if the effects of prevention can be extrapolated to humans, it could hold out hope for treatment of athletes who have suffered TBI.

Surprising Cause #2: Practice Drills

When we think of football-induced concussions and TBI, we often think of game day. It’s natural to think of the hardest hits occurring when the fans are in the stands and the result deeply matters to standings and scores.

Well, researchers at Virginia Tech have actually found that the strongest hits in football may happen during practice drills. Popular and often repeated drills, such as King of the Circle, thus need to be reviewed and evaluated to ensure maximum safety for the players.

Surprising Cause #3: Status and Power

People who have attained more status and power than others, whether they lead corporations or perform in mass media, may act as though their egos are large and their self-regard high. But do they act like someone with TBI?

Well, they might. Researchers from both the University of California at Berkeley and Canada’s McMaster University have noticed that people with positions of high power and status do act like TBI sufferers. They may behave very impulsively and take on large risks without being aware of the dangers.

Why? Well, at least one person who has studied the brains of people with high status believes that their brain chemistry might inhibit a neural process known as “mirroring.” Mirroring is why people who frequently work together tend to take on similar expressions and body language: they are unconsciously imitating the group.

But mirroring also gives information about how people and groups behave and what they collectively think. The more power people gain, the more they may lose their capacity to realize these cultural cues.

Bad Concussion? Call a Los Angeles TBI Lawyer

TBIs, whether they stem from unusual causes or the ones headlines have caused us to know so well, can have seriously negative consequences that can last for the long-term. If you or a loved one is suffering from the disabling side effects of traumatic brain injury in southern California, call Ellis Injury Law today at 1-800-INJURED for a complimentary consultation. We have the resources and knowhow to investigate the causes of your injury and gather hard evidence proving beyond a doubt who is at fault. Call a traumatic brain injury lawyer Los Angeles trusts today to see how much your case is worth!

Additional Resources on Little-Known Causes of TBI:

  1. BMC. “Head injury causes the immune system to attack the brain.” https://www.biomedcentral.com/about/press-centre/science-press-releases/20-oct-2014-.
  2. News 7, KWLL. “New study reveals surprising cause of head injuries.” August 25, 2016. https://www.biomedcentral.com/about/press-centre/science-press-releases/20-oct-2014-.
  3. Useem, Jerry. “Power Causes Brain Damage.” The Atlantic. July/August 2017. https://www.biomedcentral.com/about/press-centre/science-press-releases/20-oct-2014-

Recovering from a Brain Injury? You’re in for a Long Haul

brain injury treatment with wired electrodes

Sprain a tendon? Use the RICE method. Break a bone? A few weeks in a cast will get you back to normal. But healing brain injuries isn’t so cut-and-dry. In fact, they’re in a league of their own, and not in a good way. Recovering from a brain injury isn’t like regaining muscle strength in a cast-bound leg. There’s no formula of reps and sets to follow to rebuild cognitive nimbleness and flexibility. And increasingly, medical experts are realizing that, long after the acute healing phase is done, the long-term recovery continues. Many experts now recognize that, much like stroke, recovery from traumatic brain injuries lasts a lifetime.

The early stages of recovery

Neurologists often refer to the Rancho Los Amigos’ Levels of Cognitive Functioning scale. The Ranchos scale identifies distinct stages of brain injury recovery. Much like the stages of grief, people progress through it at different rates. Most don’t achieve full recovery. It’s possible to progress to the next stage, and then to regress again. Additionally, not everyone starts out at level one.

  1. Level one: No response. The patient is comatose, and does not respond to external stimuli.
  2. Level two: Generalized response. The patient is semi-comatose, and has slow, inconsistent, or delayed responses to external stimuli. Responses may include sweating, chewing, faster breathing, increasing blood pressure, moaning, and moving.
  3. Level three: Localized response. The patient is no longer comatose, and seems alert. The patient may turn the head to locate the source of a sound, and may follow simple directives, such as “blink your eyes.”

Later stages of recovery

  • Level four: Confusion and agitation. The patient is extremely confused and possibly scared. The patient may try to remove tubes and electrodes, kick or hit others, scream, and say unusual things.
  • Level five: Confused and inappropriate. The patient is still confused, but no longer combative. The patient may have better long-term memory than short-term, and struggles significantly with concentration and simple tasks.
  • Level six: Confused and appropriate. This stage can give hope to the patient’s loved ones. The patient is able to focus better, perform simple self-care tasks, and learn information, but still easily forgets information.
  • Level seven: Automatic and appropriate. The patient can perform routine, structured tasks associated with a normal, daily schedule. However, judgment is poor and safety is a concern because of it.
  • Level eight: Purposeful and appropriate. The patient still requires assistance, but is able to function at home and in the community. Memory is better, and new learning can occur. The patient may experience lingering deficits in judgment, reasoning, stress tolerance, intellectual capacity, and emotional stability.

How to afford your medical treatment and recovery

A serious brain injury can keep you out of work for a long time—perhaps even permanently. You’ll also have the expense of medical imaging and treatment, medications, and therapy specialists. If your traumatic injury was the result of someone else’s negligence, you shouldn’t have to pay for it.

Contact the Los Angeles brain injury lawyers at Ellis Law at one of our many locations in southern California. We know that your health is irreplaceable, and nothing can truly compensate you for any permanent disabilities you’ve sustained. But let us review your case for free, and we’ll see how we can help you secure compensation for your injury-related expenses, including your lost wages. Call our personal injury law firm today!

Additional brain injury resources

  1. Brainline, Traumatic Brain Injury: A Lifetime of Recovery, https://www.brainline.org/blog/getting-back-bike/traumatic-brain-injury-lifetime-recovery
  2. The Guardian, The truth about recovering from a brain injury, https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/jun/22/recovering-brain-injury

Childhood Concussion Raises Risk of Dementia in Later Life

youth head injury concussionA recent study indicates that people who suffer a traumatic brain injury (TBI) are 25% more likely to develop dementia later in life, and that the risk lasts up to 30 years or more. In the first year after a TBI, the risk of developing dementia rises 4- to 6-fold.

Several or more severe TBIs increased the risk more than one TBI of average severity.

The study was conducted on more than 3.3 million people aged 50 or above in Sweden. It looked at people diagnosed with TBI and dementia between 1964 and 2012. It is one of the largest studies of its kind ever conducted, and gives results from what one observer termed an impressively large group of people. The results were published in PLoS Medicine.

As large as the cohort in Sweden was, observers cautioned that it only shows correlation between TBIs and dementia. It does not show a cause-and-effect relationship between receiving a TBI and developing dementia.

Further study is needed to determine whether a causal relationship exists.

Childhood TBIs Increased in the U.S. From 2001 to 2012

The study is particularly timely, given the sharp rise in childhood concussions and TBIs. Concussions are the mildest form of TBI. Between 2001 and 2012, the number of children admitted to emergency departments across the country for TBIs related to sports and recreation activities doubled.

TBIs can be caused by the brain being jostled back and forth within the skull, as with concussions, or by direct impact of an object against the head, as in an accident, or a fall.

There were 2.8 million total emergency department visits and hospitalizations for TBIs for all ages in the U.S. during 2013, the latest year for which statistics were available.

TBIs can cause headaches, memory loss, emotional impairment, lack of cognitive function, and can result in severe injury, including loss of limb or other functioning, and quadriplegia.

Experienced Los Angeles Brain Injury Lawyers

TBIs and their effects can be a tragedy, especially for children. If you have a child who has suffered a TBI, especially from a concussion in circumstances where negligence on the part of a supervisor or institution may have been a contributing factor, contact an experienced L.A. brain injury lawyer today.

TBIs can result in steep medical bills, extensive therapy, and the need for life-long care and specialized equipment. Unfortunately, all too many people in Southern California are harmed by TBIs annually.

Attorneys at Ellis Injury Law have decades of experience successfully litigating brain injury cases. Contact us now at 1-800-INJURED for a free consultation, and to see how much your case might be worth.

More resources on the link between childhood concussion and dementia risk later in life:

  1. Bharath. “Experienced concussion in childhood? It may lead to dementia, says study.” PressKS. February 1, 2018. http://pressks.com/medical/experienced-concussion-childhood-may-lead-dementia-says-study/57225/
  2. Duan, Christy. “Traumatic brain injury linked to increased dementia risk: Report.” January 31, 2018. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/traumatic-brain-injury-linked-increased-dementia-risk-report/story?id=52719638
  3. Weinstein, Cheryl Platzman. “More evidence traumatic brain injuries raise later dementia risk.” Reuters. January 31, 2018. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-dementia-brain-injury/more-evidence-traumatic-brain-injuries-raise-later-dementia-risk-idUSKBN1FK3B3

Top 5 Concussion Myths

Concussions are some of the most prevalent injuries seen in sports medicine. They are also some of the most dangerous. Why? Despite significant advances in research and education on concussive injuries, there still remains a lot of misinformation regarding their causes, diagnosis and treatment.

A type of mild brain injury, concussions can happen under a variety of circumstances and are not limited to sporting accidents on the field. A concussion can result from a fall off a bicycle, a car accident, being struck by an object, and other non-sports contexts.

In an effort to help people rethink the severity and potential dangers of concussions, let’s dispel some of the more common myths being perpetuated.

#1 – A concussion only results from a direct blow to the head

Any blow that sends enough force of impact directly to the brain can cause a concussion. For instance, a fall or sudden jolt to the neck, back or shoulders can shake the body with enough force to rattle the brain inside the skull. This sudden movement can cause serious damage to brain cells.

#2 – You must black out, or lose consciousness to suffer a concussion

Very few people actually lose consciousness after suffering a concussion. While passing out is a definite indicator of a concussive brain injury, no two concussions are the same, and there is a wide spectrum of symptoms that may present. Sudden headache, nausea, dizziness, balance problems, and ringing in the ears are common signs that point to a possible concussion.

#3 – The harder the blow, the worse the prognosis

The type and strength of blow sustained does not always have a direct correlation to the severity of the concussion, or the recovery time. “I have seen children who have fallen out of a two-story window and within a few days have fully recovered, while others who have simply been hit with a dodge ball in gym class can take a year to get better,” explains assistant professor of pediatric sports medicine at Washington University, Dr. Mark Halstead.

#4 – CT scans and MRIs are the only diagnostic tool

These high-resolution imaging tests are designed to identify bleeding and/or damage to the brain, but they are not particularly adept at diagnosing a minor concussion. Most doctors assess patients for concussive injuries by asking about their symptoms, looking for post-concussive physical signs and performing exams to evaluate things like vision, memory, concentration and balance.

#5 – Football is the #1 cause of concussions in children

In reality, there are more biking accident-related concussions in American children than any other type of sport. According to statistics, cheerleading and wrestling follow with the next highest concussion rates.

When it comes to this increasingly common brain injury, it absolutely pays to be educated and prepared. By understanding the wide spectrum of symptoms, you are more likely to recognize a concussion and seek prompt medical treatment. Long-term side effects from concussions are often traced back to poorly treated injuries or delays in treatment. Even mild TBIs can leave victims at risk for long-term damage and lengthy recoveries.

The bottom line is that concussions should not be taken lightly. Seek prompt medical evaluation and treatment, and if negligence is suspected, contact the Los Angeles traumatic brain injury lawyers at Ellis Law for a free consultation. We are proud to offer award-winning personal injury representation to residents throughout Southern California.

Additional Resources on Concussion Myths:

  1. Parents, 11 Concussion Myths That Could Hurt Your Child https://www.parents.com/health/injuries/11-concussion-myths/
  2. PsychologyToday, 7 Myths About Concussions https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mental-wealth/201606/7-myths-about-concussions
  3. UPMC, NEUROMYTHOLOGY: DEBUNKING THE TOP CONCUSSION MYTHS http://rethinkconcussions.upmc.com/2016/10/concussion-myths-facts/

Breakthrough Brain Injury Treatment Sounds Like Science Fiction

brain injury treatment with wired electrodesTraumatic brain injury (TBI) is sometimes very hard to treat. Patients can suffer lasting damage from the injury, ranging from paralysis to difficulty processing information. Researchers are looking into several potential therapies with breakthrough potential, though. Some of them sound like science fiction.

Promising Brain Injury Therapies for the Future?

A United Kingdom-based computer chip design company, ARM Holdings, for example, is partnering with the University of Washington’s Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering (CSNE) to develop computer chips that can be implanted in the brain. The chips are designed to help those with brain and spinal cord injuries.

The chips will enable people to do tasks they cannot do alone, such as sensing the temperature of objects or being able to move them.

While small prototype chips exist, they are still in the experimental stage. The project will be completed over the next decade.

Another potential therapy is implanting electrodes in the brain for deep brain stimulation (DBS). So far, this method has been used for mental illnesses such as depression and for other nervous system disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease.

However, a research team at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) believes that implantation has great potential for a number of conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries.

Brain Chip Implants: Potential Dangers

Drawbacks to these therapies may exist. As Gizmodo points out, some Parkinson’s patients receiving DBS via implanted electrodes have reported altered body image, stating that they felt like a machine after having the implantation surgery. This is reminiscent of science fiction novels, where implanted technology gives rise to cyborgs: half person, half machine.

Some feel there are ethical considerations involved in changing the brain with an outside substance, such as implanted electrodes or computers. Some fear mind control, or even hacking of computer chips.

While some of these concerns may be fanciful, it’s worth noting that none of these technologies have been fully developed and tested for patients with brain injuries. They may be promising, but will likely be years in the testing and development stage.

All therapies need to be tested to ensure that patients with brain injuries are treated safely and ethically, with no risk to themselves or others.

If You Need a Brain Injury Attorney in Southern California

If you or a loved one has suffered a traumatic brain injury through the negligence of another, it’s good to know the law is on your side.

Ellis Injury Law has been successfully litigating brain injuries and spinal cord injuries in Los Angeles for more than two decades. Let us help you receive the justice you deserve.

Contact us today at 1-800-INJURED for a complimentary consultation with an experienced traumatic brain injury lawyer in Los Angeles. We charge no fees unless we win money for you!

Additional Resources on Brain Chip Implants:

  1. Brown, Kristen V. “DARPA’s Brain Chip Implants Could Be the Next Big Mental Health Breakthrough—or a Total Disaster.” Gizmodo. March 6, 2017. https://gizmodo.com/darpa-s-brain-chips-could-be-the-next-big-mental-health-1791549701.
  2. “Implantable Computer Chips Being Developed for Brain Injuries.” Fox News. May 16, 2017. http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2017/05/16/implantable-computer-chips-being-developed-for-brain-injuries.html.

3 Amazing Brain Injury Stories

A serious brain injury can derail a person’s life plans, potentially disrupting physical, cognitive, and emotional function. There are, however, occasional stories of astounding recovery that serve as a light to those looking for some hope. Here are three worth knowing about.

Teen graduates college after severely critical brain injuries

Brainline featured what may be a miraculous recovery of Sam Beemer, who was severely injured in a car accident at 16. She had multiple injuries, including a traumatic brain injury, multiple skull fractures, a punctured lung, a broken pelvis and other broken bones, and dissected right carotid artery. Each injury was serious, but many could not be treated for fear of aggravating the brain injury and dissected carotid.

After two weeks, Sam’s brain began to swell; doctors believed that if she survived she would experience crippling mental and physical deficits. However, after much rehab and missing a year of school, Sam graduated high school with her class and headed off to college. She still experiences effects of her injuries, including blindness on the left side of both eyes and reduced functionality on the left side of her body, but has much to celebrate.

College student’s TBI recovery defies odds

The Washington Post featured the recovery of Dylan Williams after a traumatic brain injury threatened his future. When he was a college junior, Dylan was struck by a car in a crosswalk. His head went through the car’s windshield and doctors feared he would be permanently disabled.

Family and friends rallied around Dylan with unrelenting support and he defied doctors’ predictions one step at a time. Though his processing speed may have been impacted by the injury, Dylan graduated Phi Beta Kappa from college. He has been recognized by his doctors as a reason to not give up hope.

Brain injury unlocks man’s mathematical and artistic genius

Jason Padgett was severely beaten outside a karaoke bar in 2002. Padgett was not particularly academic, but the attack left the furniture salesman with an unbelievable new ability; he began to see the world in geometric patterns and math sequences.

Padgett is one of several hundred documented cases of “acquired savant syndrome”, in which an individual develops remarkable ability following a severe injury. He is the only known person in the world who can draw fractals, which are complex symmetrical repeating patterns that represent a whole. Fractals are rooted in geometry, and the injury left Padgett with the ability to understand geometry and physics. The new-found ability inspired him to go to college to study math.

Justice for brain injury victims

Brain injuries impact the entire family, causing both the victim and his or her loved ones to need to establish a new normal. It can also leave staggering medical bills and the inability to work. If you or a loved one have suffered a brain injury in California and believe someone else may be at fault, speak with a Los Angeles brain injury lawyer at Ellis Injury Law.

We have over 20 years of experience fighting for the rights of personal injury victims in California. Contact us today at 1-800-INJURED for a consultation with a committed brain injury attorney, with no cost or obligation.

Additional “Brain Injury Recovery” Resources:

  1. Popular Science, When Brain Damage Unlocks The Genius Within, https://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-02/when-brain-damage-unlocks-genius-within
  2. The Washington Post, After traumatic brain injury, a young man’s astounding recovery, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/after-traumatic-brain-injury-a-young-mans-astounding-recovery/2014/09/15/410ab5e8-26e6-11e4-8593-da634b334390_story.html?utm_term=.05406c3a7aa6
  3. Live Science, Beautiful Mind: Brain Injury Turns Man Into Math Genius, https://www.livescience.com/45349-brain-injury-turns-man-into-math-genius.html

What are Common Traumatic Brain Injury Symptoms?

brain injuryA traumatic brain injury, or TBI or intracranial injury, is a type of head injury. It can result in social, physical, emotional, cognitive and behavioral deficiencies.

As personal injury attorneys, we at Ellis Law know how these injuries go far beyond the clinical. There are devastating consequences that can affect every aspect of the patient’s life, from how they manage once easy activities – like bathing and eating – to drastically altering the lives of everyone around them.

What follows is an overview of traumatic brain injuries, including causes, signs, symptoms, and how they affect us.

What are Traumatic Brain Injuries?

TBIs should not be confused with head injuries. A head injury can involve damage to the skull and scalp. A traumatic brain injury is the result of a jolt that actually shifts the position of the brain. Depending on the severity of the impact, the brain can actually bounce against skull walls.

The most common form of TBI is a concussion. A concussion has to be monitored carefully as it can appear to be a mild injury – starting with wooziness, confusion, or loss of consciousness. But a concussion can lead to alterations in motor skills, speech patterns, cognitive ability, and the senses.

Traumatic Brain Injury Symptoms: What to Watch Out For

  • The most common symptom of a TBI is pressure on the cranium, causing headaches, migraines, or other painful sensations.
  • Problems with vision: uneven pupils, dilation, blurred imagery.
  • Difficulty participating in once common activities due to: dizziness, loss of consciousness, an onset of confusion, lightheadedness, delayed response, unexplained fatigue or changes in sleep habits.
  • Slurred speech
  • Memory loss
  • Mood and behavioral swings
  • Other physical changes can include ringing or buzzing in the ears, vomiting or nausea, seizures, convulsions, unusual tastes in the mouth, tingling or numbness in the limbs, and loss of coordination.

Causes of a TBI

Many associate TBIs with car accidents and, recently, with sports like football. The truth is a traumatic brain injury can occur in any incident where the head is struck or jolted. Individuals wearing seat belts have suffered traumatic brain injuries when rear ended. Motorcyclists with the market’s best helmets have experienced TBIs after a fall.

TBIs can also occur after a slip-and-fall. The traumatic brain injury is not determined by the incident, but by factors like damage to brain cells and movement of the brain in the skull resulting in points of damage.

Call a TBI Attorney at Ellis Injury Law

Throughout California, Ellis Injury Law has used its expertise to help the injured and their families manage as normal a life as possible despite life-changing accidents that have resulted in TBIs. Our Los Angeles traumatic brain injury lawyers provide aggressive legal advocacy to make sure negligent parties are held responsible for your injuries.

If you or someone you know is suffering from a traumatic brain injury, give Ellis Injury Law a call at 1-800-INJURED and arrange for a free consultation to assess your legal rights.

Additional “TBI Symptoms” Resources:

  1. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Traumatic brain injury information page, https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/all-disorders
  2. American Academy of Family Physicians. Traumatic brain injury: Symptoms, https://familydoctor.org/condition/traumatic-brain-injury/
  3. Department of Rehabilitation, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), http://www.rehab.ca.gov/boards-and-committees/TBI

Best Apps for Brain Injury Recovery

Moderate to severe brain trauma changes a family in many unexpected ways. Patients can display behavioral changes, personality differences, cognitive impairment, and many other issues that inhibit their self-care abilities and overall independence. Technology can’t replace the medical and therapy services provided by healthcare professionals, but there are some apps available that can help. Some of them may help the patient improve functional skills, while others are supportive in nature—intended to make everyday life a little bit easier for families living with this complex disability.

5 Apps to Help with Brain Injury Rehab

ColorDoKu – Color Sudoku

Some brain injury patients have difficulty with memory and basic skills like color matching. For these patients, a modified version of Sudoku can be good exercise for the brain. ColorDoKu is based on the number matching game, but it features colors. This free app has a 9 X 9 grid. The goal is to fill in the squares so that each of the 3 X 3 sub-grids, rows, and columns all have different colors.

Dragon Dictation

Dragon Dictation is a useful app for patients who have trouble with written communication, but do well with spoken communication. It’s the app version of the much-acclaimed voice recognition software by Dragon NaturallySpeaking. This advanced software is capable of learning and adapting to each user’s speech patterns, which means it becomes more accurate with continued use. With the app, users can dictate notes to themselves to compensate for memory problems. The app also dictates text messages, emails, and social media updates.


Emotional and behavioral issues are problematic for some families affected by traumatic brain injuries. Breathe2Relax is a free app that helps users learn about the many ways in which stress affects the body. Users are guided through stress management techniques, including diaphragmatic breathing. The app intends to help users gain better anger control, mood stabilization, and anxiety management. It may be used in collaboration with a mental health counselor.


You may have heard of the Luminosity website, which brands itself as a brain training program for people who wish to develop better mental acuity. Now, the website is available as an app to help patients improve their cognitive abilities. The app provides daily brain workouts that stimulate five core cognitive skills. It also provides detailed reports of the results, letting users know which areas they should focus on improving.


This app is currently only available for the iPad. It can help brain injury patients regain the ability to count change, which promotes independent living. It’s a visual learning tool that guides users in moving change around the screen to solve basic addition tasks. Users will get helpful information on ways of counting change that use the least amount of coins.

Monetary compensation for brain injury patients

Ellis Law provides effective legal advocacy services for patients with brain injuries caused by someone else’s negligence. If you or a loved one were in an accident and sustained serious brain trauma, call our law firm at 1-800-INJURED to request a complimentary, zero-pressure case review with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Los Angeles.

Additional “brain injury apps” resources:

  1. Brainline, Life-Changing Mobile Apps for People with Brain Injury, https://www.brainline.org/article/life-changing-mobile-apps-people-brain-injury
  2. MedlinePlus, Traumatic Brain Injury, https://medlineplus.gov/traumaticbraininjury.html