Traumatic brain injuries can vary in their severity. In the case of mild brain injury, full recovery is possible. On the other hand, severe brain injury can be fatal or cause permanent disabilities, the type of which depend on the affected area of the brain. A head injury is usually obvious because of visible wounds to the head. However, the coup-contrecoup brain injury may occur without any exterior damage to the head or skull. The victim may first feel a headache, but because there’s no evidence of a head injury, the coup-contrecoup may go undiagnosed and death may occur in a matter of hours or days.
The Coup-Contrecoup Brain Injury Explained
In a high-speed head-on collision, the car and its restrained driver (or passenger) come to a rapid stop while the driver’s head continues to move forward until it’s stopped by the neck. At this point the brain slams into the front inside surface of the skull. This injures the front portion of the brain. The neck and head then snap backward until the back of the head hits the head rest or is again stopped by the neck. The brain then slams into the back of the skull, which injures the back portion of the brain. As a result, two areas on opposite sides of the brain are injured.
Because the head did not come into contact with any hard exterior object or surface, no external head wounds appear. If the victim doesn’t exhibit any behavioral signs of brain injury, then no one suspects a head or brain injury at all. The bruising and bleeding within the brain may take a few hours or days to develop sufficiently enough so that the victim realizes something is wrong.
Alternatively, if the head strikes the steering wheel before snapping backward, then the injury on the front side of the brain will get diagnosed (because of the obvious external front head wound) while the injury on the opposite side may elude diagnosis and not get treatment. Hopefully in this case, the doctor will nevertheless check for the possibility of a coup-contrecoup injury.
- Headache and possible pain on opposite sides of the head.
- Diminished thinking skills.
- Blurred vision.
- Loss of sense of smell.
- Sleep pattern changes.
- Mood changes.
Depending on the injured part of the brain, many other symptom types may occur. If the victim feels any of the above symptoms, is confused or seems “off” in any way, she or he should get medical attention.