Chameleon Injuries and the Threat of Misdiagnosis: Head Trauma is Not Black and White

By Nick Donovic

Head trauma accounts for up to 30 percent of of all injury-related deaths in the U.S. For those who survive a traumatic brain injury (TBI), the consequences can cause years of/ life-long impairment of memory, thinking, moving, sensation and and emotional function.Chameleon Injuries and the Threat of Misdiagnosis Head Trauma is Not Black and White

Basically, TBIs are never going to be a walk in the park, but as concerned citizens, survivors and champions for loved ones who have experienced a TBI– there are steps we can take to ensure we assess the best course of action to take . . . because every traumatic brain injury deserves the utmost and detailed care, because no two injuries are exactly alike.

An Evaluation Station

Concussions can masquerade or piggyback symptoms of other brain injuries, which can ultimately play a role in the improper diagnosis and treatment of other head injuries. Even the most innocuous injury can turn out to be something more than it originally presented as.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Public Health,  there is a step-by-step analysis of the proper way to handle an assess a TBI, whether or not it will be diagnosed as a concussion. First and formost, the NCBI determines injury potential on a scale similar to this:

  • Background: this step evaluates the severity and treatment plan of the TBI, while leaving room for proper evolution according to pitfalls that may arise along the way. This step should include the initial plan-of-action for the rehabilitation program best-suited for the injury at-hand.
  • Material Methods: No matter the cause of the TBI, science and common sense have both proven that the more hands-on approach that is taken to any realm of sports-related TBI has a higher instance of sustained rehabilitation. Simple exercises involving movement and different means of transport show significant results.
  • Blueprint for Brain Injury Health: No matter what the initial, secondary and tertiary diagnosis is for the realm of TBIs, human touch, support and consistent and secondary analysis is essential.

When Love and Injury Collide

Dr. Alexander K. Powers, a pediatric neurosurgeon from Wake Forest Baptist Health notes that treating rare brain injuries may allow his passion and his expertise to align in an uncommon way. According to, he grew up playing soccer, baseball, basketball and he rowed crew. Now he gets to straddle both sides of the coin as he supports his children’s athletic endeavors as he supports and tries to minimize damage done by youth sports.

Although more than 1.7 million people injure their brain accidentally each year, 75 percent of them are concussions or other mild injuries. Dr. Powers advocated for the 52,000 people each year who die from more severe complications, and the 275,000 that are hospitalized without optimal treatment.

Powers has also noted that there is a trend in many different positions across many different sports. He notes that proper and effective treatment may depend largely on previously ignored symptoms such as nausea, moodiness, trouble sleeping and even anxiety. As far as teenagers go, that seems like an arsenal of normalcy, which is why parents, coaches and teachers should pay extra attention to shifts in behavior after physical sports interactions.

Attorneys Sansone & Lauber note that, whether a TBI is concussion related, or more or less severe, as many as six percent of TBI related deaths could be preventable. Furthermore, as many as 74 percent of traumas related to hospital errors are preventable, according to the American Medical Association. Although the term preventable doesn’t always mean “negligent,” it never hurts to do the backup work and check into whether or not a patient could be prevented from hurting.

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