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Were you recently in an accident? Did you seek medical care despite having no symptoms? You, like many others, may feel just fine after a car crash, fall or other type of accident. However, failing to see a doctor afterward is particularly dangerous if you hit your head.

According to the Centers for Disease and Prevention, about 2.8 million people suffer from traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) each year. Many don’t even know they were injured. Unfortunately, failing to get your head examined (no pun intended) can lead to serious consequences, including:

  • Cognitive impairment: Cognitive impairment is often one of the first signs that a person has suffered a concussion (the more common way to describe a TBI.) This may take the form of a shortened attention span, loss of memory or an inability to interpret social cues. All these symptoms can vary depending on the severity of the injury. Any sudden changes in a person’s mental capacity, though, is cause for concern if they happen right after any kind of motor vehicle accident.
  • Changes in behavior: In addition to general mental incapacity, a person with a TBI is likely to display certain changes in behavior. She or he might become irritable easily, be prone to depression or act out in socially inappropriate ways. These are all symptoms of a potential TBI because any type of brain injury can affect the part of the brain that controls a person’s emotions and social functions.
  • Potential of death: In severe circumstances, a TBI can lead to death. This may happen if the TBI causes seizures. It may also occur if the injury causes bleeding in the brain. Since this is often not noticed right away, it can be fatal if left untreated.

While “seeing stars” can be a little humorous, see a doctor if you have hit your head or jolted it suddenly like whiplash in a fender-bender. Your recovery can be long and expensive. The sooner you find out what is wrong, the better your chances for a full recovery.