It is rare to walk away from a motorcycle accident unscathed. A head injury is perhaps the most serious injury one can sustain as the result of a motorcycle accident. Even when helmets are worn, the lack of protection surrounding a motorcycle rider involved in a cycle accident usually means a serious injury.
When a head injury occurs, there may be no visible damage on the outside- inside the skull, it may be a different scenario entirely. Although the brain is protected by its bony covering, the brain may be shaken or bounced from one side of the skull to the other, which may result in bleeding around the brain, bruising of the brain tissue itself or damage to the nerves within the brain.
There are several types of skull fractures that may occur as the result of a motorcycle injury. A skull fracture often means that the area of the brain beneath the skull has also been injured.
- Basilar skull fractures-in basilar skull fractures, there is a fracture in the bones at the base of the skull. These fractures often extend to the facial bones and sinuses.
- Linear skull fractures– straight line fractures in any area of the skull.
- Stellate fractures– these fractures assume a starburst-like shape
- Penetrating skull fractures-injury occurs to the brain as a result of some object penetrating the skull. In motorcycle accidents, these usually occur when a foreign object impales the brain.
- Depressed skull fracture-a piece of the skull is forced inwards towards the brain
- Open and closed fractures– open fractures occur when the skin is damaged over the fracture site, allowing potential debris unimpeded access to the brain and increasing the risk of infection. In closed fractures, the skin is intact over the site of the fracture.
An intracranial bleed refers to any bleeding within the skull, while an intracerebral bleed refers to bleeding within the brain itself. In order for a bleed to occur, there does not necessarily have to be a fracture present.
Bleeding within the confines of the skull or brain is dangerous because the skull is an enclosed area; therefore, when bleeding occurs, there is no escape for accumulating blood or blood clots. This can lead to increased pressure within the skull which eventually compresses the brain if not relieved. There are several types of brain bleeds that may occur as the result of a head injury:
- Subdural hematoma– occurs when the bridging veins lining the subdural space (space between the skull and the brain) are torn. A subdural hematoma may form at a fracture site or may form on the opposite side of the skull from the area of injury due to the brain being forcefully bounced against the opposite side of the skull.
- Epidural hematoma– the dura is a tough membrane that lines the brain, protecting it. It attaches where the bones of the skull come together (suture line). When an epidural hematoma occurs, the escaping blood forms a clot within a small, confined area, which places pressure on the brain. Most people with this type of brain bleed will require surgery to relieve the pressure on the brain, although very small bleeds may be observed carefully.
- Subarachnoid hemorrhage– in this type of injury, blood collects beneath the innermost layer of the meninges (arachnoid layer). This may also result in an intracerebral hemorrhage.
- Intracerebral hemorrhage/Cerebral contusion– a “bruise” to the brain, these types of injuries involve the brain tissue. Swelling is a major complication
- Shear injury (diffuse axonal injury) – axons are parts of the neurons, specialized brain cells that allow signals to be sent between brain cells. This type of injury results in an interruption of electrical flow between the brain cells, often resulting in a coma without any discernible bleeding or damage within the brain.
Any of the above injuries are potentially deadly. Helmets do not always protect against head injuries (although they certainly increase one’s chances of surviving a motorcycle accident). Motorcycle injuries often involve high speed and impact forces, and the lack of any protection around the rider may result in severe injury. If you have sustained a head injury as the result of a motorcycle accident, or have a question regarding your legal rights, please contact us.