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For decades now the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) has hosted an annual Egg Drop Contest. The basics idea of this contest is to award prize money to students for creating low-cost, low-weight rigs to protect eggs from high falls.
The low-weight rule is relatively new because it was discovered that encasing an egg in a block of sand kept it from breaking at high velocities and heights. Sand has an enormous amount of shock-absorption because of its many moving bits.
Well it turns out your skull operates on a similar principle, wrapping the brain in pressurized fluid instead of sand. This fluid keeps the brain from bouncing against the bone even when shaken fairly hard (the neck being the pinch-point for the majority of damage).
Helmets provide an additional level of protection, distributing shock into the padding of the helmet and displacing sharp blows.
But even with multiple levels of protection, if you hit the road hard enough in a motorcycle wreck, brain injury occurs.
Brain Injuries From Motorcycle Wrecks
Brian injuries are sadly common, more common for motorcycle riders than other motorists who benefit from the large metal cage that is the car frame. Medically listed as traumatic brain injury (TBI), these injuries affect bikers at a rate 26 times higher than that experienced by people in cars.
Brain injuries range in their severity but all are caused by trauma so they receive the TBI label. There are four leading causes of TBI when involved in an accident.
- Thrown from the bike and head connects with pavement or roadway object.
- Striking head on another vehicle.
- Brain penetrated by a foreign object.
- Blow to the skull that fragments the skull bone and causes tissue damage.
The last one is a complication of any of the previous three types of injury.
Brain Injuries Start On The Outer Edge and Move Inward
The brain injures form from the outside in, with surface injuries creating diffuse effects and deeper injuries causing acute effects. These effects might include:
- Concussion – A common injury considered mild until recent revelations from sports injuries have caused it to gain the attention it deserves. A single concussion is dangerous but multiple and repeated trauma can lead to personality changes and memory loss.
- Epidural hematoma – Rather than just bruised, this is a beleed in the brain. Usually caused by strikes near the temple, this injury can be fatal if not repaired quickly.
- Subdural Hematoma – A deep brain bleed. Difficult to reach and difficult to repair. Fortunately, these are rare and, occurring when the head strikes a secondary object with great impact.
- Cerebral Contusion – Bruising to the brain. Unlike a concussion, this damage is visible on a CT or MRI.
- Coup-Contrecoup Injury – An injury sustained when one side of the skull is hit causing the brain to bounce off the other side of the skull. The secondary impact carries greater force, leading to more damage.
There is no good TBI but they do range in severity. Effects range from pain to memory loss to dementia or death. Because the brain controls everything else in the body, even small injuries can lead to nerve pain in the extremities or dysregulation of major organs.
Wearing a helmet significantly lowers the risk of more severe damage in the vent of a TBI. If you’ve been in an accident where your head came into contact with the ground or another object, it is important to get medical tests to mitigate damage and avoid unknown complications.