In movies, when someone hits their head or suffers a brain injury in a car crash, the symptoms are often immediate and obvious, in part because movies are a visual medium. The person might wind up unconscious or demonstrate exaggerated symptoms, such as blood pouring from their nose or ears.

While the loss of consciousness and bleeding are potential consequences of a traumatic brain injury (TBI) suffered in a car crash, in most cases, the signs of a brain injury are far more subtle and may not be obvious at the scene of the collision.

The fact that brain injury symptoms may take days or weeks to appear can make them even harder for people to notice. If you or someone you love has recently experienced a motor vehicle collision, it is likely in your best interests to carefully monitor for TBI symptoms to ensure the best possible prognosis.

Brain injuries often get worse over time

In the immediate aftermath of a car crash, people’s bodies are often flooded with adrenaline, which helps them respond to the emergency efficiently and mask painful symptoms. However, adrenaline may not be the reason that you don’t notice a brain injury at the time of a crash.

The symptoms associated with a TBI generally develop as bruising or bleeding on the brain causes pressure on different parts of the brain. Depending on the severity of the injury, it could take hours or even weeks for the pressure caused by the TBI to present noteworthy symptoms that prompt someone to seek medical care. Left untreated, the increasing bleeding and pressure on the brain may result in worse symptoms and a poorer prognosis.

What are the most common TBI symptoms?

The injuries someone suffers to their brain in a car wreck will vary drastically from case to case. The location of the injury, its severity and even the age of the victim will all impact what symptoms someone experiences. However, certain symptoms are more common, which means you should watch for them carefully.

The most clear-cut symptom is a loss of consciousness. Anybody who blacks out, even for a second, in a car crash should receive a medical evaluation for a potential brain injury. Other symptoms that necessitate timely medical intervention include sensory issues (like blurry vision), headache, nausea, problems with equilibrium, reduced motor function, issues with memory, disturbances to sleep patterns and changes in personality or mood.