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An In-Depth Look at Brain and Spinal Injuries

Brain and spinal cord injuries may result from many different types of trauma — motor vehicle accidents, falls, acts of violence, sports injuries and diseases are just a few examples. Sometimes, brain or spinal cord damage is due to negligence on the part of a doctor, nurse or other medical practitioner.

Whiplash is a common spinal injury, usually resulting from an auto accident. This type of injury affects the cervical spine (the area of the spine just below the base of the skull), and results from sudden or excessive hyperextension, flexion or rotation of the neck. Hyperextension usually occurs when the car is hit from behind, throwing the body forward. Once the head and neck have reached maximum extension, the neck snaps into flexion, causing further damage.

If the car slows too quickly, the opposite reaction happens — the cervical spine flexes, with hyperextension sometimes following. In its most severe form, whiplash can cause neurological damage known as traumatic brain injury (TBI), fracture and dislocation or death.

In other situations, the spine might be struck, or a knife or gunshot wound can cause a spinal disc injury. This might fracture, dislocate or compress the vertebrae. If left untreated, additional damage might occur from swelling, bleeding, fluid accumulation and inflammation. Non-traumatic spinal damage may be the result of a disease, such as cancer, osteoporosis and arthritis, or general inflammation of the spinal cord.

Symptoms of spinal cord trauma vary depending on the location of the injury, but generally, they cause weakness or a loss of sensation at or below the injury site. Regardless of if the injury is traumatic or non-traumatic, nerve fibers in the spinal cord may be damaged. A thoracic (chest) or lumbar (lower back) injury can affect the torso, bowel/bladder and legs. A cervical spine injury can also affect arm movement and the ability to breathe.

No matter the cause, victims of brain and spinal injury may be able to seek compensation from negligent medical professionals. If you or a loved one is suffering brain or spinal damage, contact a personal injury lawyer to discuss your options.