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Episode 3: What is a mild traumatic brain injury?

We are often asked as brain injury attorneys, what is a mild traumatic brain injury?

Well, what I like to say is a mild traumatic brain injury is if it's someone else's brain and not yours. Because all brain injuries can cause severe lifetime consequences.

But where does this term mild traumatic brain injury come from? What is the origin of this term that causes so many problems for both attorneys and survivors of brain injury?

It comes from something known as The Glasgow Coma Scale. A scale used by emergency personnel to evaluate the acute needs of a brain injury victim at the scene of the accident, or when they first arrive at the hospital.

There is a scale going from 3 to 15 that measures such things as:

- the ability to open one's eyes
- the ability to speak
- the ability to breathe unassisted

And each one of these events gets a score. If you are dead you get a score of 3. If you pass all these milestones you get a score of 15. And between these scores of 3 and 15, brain injuries are determined to be either mild, moderate, or severe.

But this does not tell us about the effects of the brain injury. It only tells us about the type of care that's needed when the person arrives in the Emergency Room.

Should they be seen by a neurologist? Should they be seen by a neurosurgeon? Should a cat scan be taken? Should other precautions be taken for that individual? Can they be discharged that evening from the Emergency Department?

But it has nothing to do with the repercussions of a brain injury. And that's why this coma scale is a curse to people with mild brain injuries.

We as attorneys don't talk about brain injuries as being mild, moderate, or severe. That's a term used by doctors. Yet, we need to explain this in a court room so juries don't misunderstand what a mild traumatic brain injury is.

Further reading: complete guide to traumatic brain injury (brainlaw)

Audio version

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Brain Injury Insider

michael kaplen
Brain Injury Insider is a weekly video update by The Brain Injury Law Firm ®. We cover the latest news and developments in traumatic brain injury, concussion, and brain injury law.