September 19, 2014

Traumatic Brain Injuries and Advances Beyond Traditional CT Scans and MRI

Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) can occur when one sustains a violent blow to the head or body that will cause damage to the brain, or if an object pierces the skull to enter the brain tissue. Millions of people in the United States sustain brain injuries every year, and approximately half of these injuries, according to the National Institutes of Health, occur from motor vehicle accidents. While TBI symptoms can range from mild to severe, it is important that someone who has suffered from a head injury seeks medical aid in order to diagnose the severity of the injury.

Methods of diagnosis and treatment can vary based on the severity of the injury. Patients suffering from mild to moderate head injuries might receive x-rays of the skull and neck to check for fractures or any spinal instability. Moderate to severe cases, however, require a computed tomography (CT) scan and possibly magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). CT scans are the most common method of diagnosing, as they easily reveal conditions caused by blood and swelling around the brain. MRI tends to follow CT scans if necessary and possible in order to further determine the extent of the injury and the kind of treatment required. In recent years, CT scans and MRI have undergone technological advancements that have increased physicians' capabilities in diagnosing and treating head injuries.

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June 20, 2014

A Primer on Birth Injury Cases and How to Keep Them Simple - Part 1 of 3

Our firm recently had success in a birth injury case in Gwinnett County, Georgia. In that case we represented a family against the labor and delivery team that delivered their daughter and the hospital where they worked. Following her delivery, their daughter was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. The term "Cerebral Palsy" refers to several different kinds of permanent brain injuries that occur before, during, or shortly after birth. Victims of Cerebral Palsy can suffer a variety of symptoms including: limited movement, speech difficulties, learning disabilities, visual problems, hearing problems, and epilepsy, seizures or spasms. She suffered from many of these. By the time of trial, she was a ten year-old who suffered grand-mal seizures, had limited use of her right arm and leg, and whose intellectual development had stopped at the level of a three year-old.

In her case, the jury was faced with two very different stories of how her injuries occurred. Our story was that she had suffered a hypoxic injury (lack of oxygen during delivery), and the defense claimed she had developed an infection. Although there was medicine and experts supporting both sides, the jury found our story the most credible. They returned a verdict for the family of $12.9 million.

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November 11, 2013

Part 4 - "The Doctors" - Ways to Lessen RSD Symptoms

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According to Dr. Travis Stark, E.R. physician, avoid sugar and processed foods. RSD is an inflammatory condition and so when you are eating highly processed, high sugar foods, you are putting yourself at risk for a whole body inflammatory reaction.

You also have to be very careful with things like caffeine, which can stimulate your sympathetic nervous system. So stick to decaf.

Dr. Joshua Prager, an RSD specialist, says "In some cases we have seen non-healing wounds, where the wound leaks and will not heal. This is something where hyperbaric oxygen can be extremely helpful in treating the wound, as well as helping with the RSD.

Also Dr. Prager says, "unless you have a whole team working together, and that includes physical therapy, psychology, relaxation therapy, an interventionalist to help the pain, etc... if all these people are not working together at the same time, you are pretty much doomed to failure. "

View this video at:

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November 4, 2013

Part 3 - "The Doctors" - Living with RSD

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For Kathy, RSD is much more than a painful diagnosis - it's her life. She says her life has completely changed since she was diagnosed with RSD. She wakes up at 4:30 a.m. "At that time the pain level is about a 4 - not too bad," she says.

She works out every morning, even though she has been on crutches for about 8 years now.

"It used to take me an hour and 15 minutes to get ready," she says "where now it takes 3 hours". Four days out of the week I'm either doing pain management or physical therapy. I go to the surgery center and get sympathetic nerve blocks in the lower part of my back. This is where they actually go into the nerves and shut the nerves down.

"The pain in my foot will wake me up out of a deep sleep," she says.

Her husband Ken is very supportive and has learned over the years how to read the signs of her pain, whether through breathing or facial expressions. "It's so important to have someone that understands and supports you," Kathy says.

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October 28, 2013

Part 2 - "The Doctors" - What is RSD (Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy) ?

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What is RSD? According to E.R. Physician Dr. Travis Stark, any time you suffer an injury, pain signals are sent to your central nervous system and your brain saying "this hurts", but with RSD, the pain signal never stops and the pain can actually get worse over time. The injured area experiences inflammation and over time the pain moves past the limb where the original injury was. Not only can it cause severe pain and swelling, RSD can also cause spasms throughout your body, not only in your extremities but also in things like your bladder.

Kathy says that there are moments when she cannot handle the pain. "The pain and the burning at times feels very similar to being burned on a hot stove, but intensified by 10," she says.

Would amputation be an option? Kathy's pain management specialist, Dr. Stephen Barkow says "It's a disease of the central nervous system - the brain and spinal cord are also involved. So typically, if you were to amputate the limb, the disease gets worse and spreads to other limbs. Dr. Barkow says "Kathy has a particularly aggressive form of RSD, and she should be in a medical textbook, because it's so aggressive despite being in treatment for 10 years."

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October 21, 2013

Part 1 - "The Doctors" - Minor Injury Leads to Rare Disorder - RSD

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Meet Kathy, who was recently a guest on "The Doctors" television program. Kathy has been suffering from RSD (Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy) for 19 years.

It all began for Kathy in 1996, when she was working at a college. She was headed to the gym to exercise with her husband, and was walking barefoot with her sneakers in her hand, when the football player walking in front of her took a step backwards, causing her to injure her foot. It broke the skin a little but there were no broken bones. However after several weeks, the injury was not healing and was actually worse. "It felt like being stabbed with a hot poker, and then eventually progressed to spasms" Kathy said. Kathy suffered the pain on and off for 7 years, and then was diagnosed with RSD by Dr. Stephen Barkow, pain management specialist.

RSD is a chronic systemic disease, characterized by severe pain and swelling. "I've never seen a case like this in my entire career", Dr. Travis Stark, E.R. physician, said. Acccording to Dr. Stark, Kathy's RSD is in stage 4, which is a level of severity that most RSD patients never experience.

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June 14, 2013

Unfortunate Dive Results in Spinal Cord Injury

Reading the Atlanta Journal & Constitution this weekend, I came across an unfortunate story about a young man who suffered a Spinal Cord Injury as a result of diving into an unlit pool that he was unfamiliar with. As a personal injury attorney here in Atlanta, Georgia, I see tragedy every day, but it never fails to sadden me when I hear of someone having to deal with such a catastrophic injury and being confined to a wheelchair for the remainder of his life.

Chase Jone's dive resulted in 3 broken vertebrae in his neck. Directly after the accident he was paralyzed from the neck down. He has regained some very limited motion of his upper body.

"This is something I'm still coming to terms with in some way every day," Jones says. "Once upon a time, I could wake up and be ready to go to work in 30 minutes. Now it easily takes an hour and a half."

Chase also moved back in with his parents in their Carrollton home so that they could help take care of him, as he is no longer able to care for himself independently.

Now that hot weather is approaching, pools and lakes will be filled with swimmers everywhere. Chase Jones has one word of advice for all: don't dive.

Bridget Metzger, who is the Director of Injury Prevention and Education at the Shepherd Center here in Atlanta, says "Diving-related accidents fly under the radar, but when they happen, they are so significant and catastrophic." At the Shepherd Center, diving accidents represent the fourth most common cause of spinal cord injury.

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May 31, 2013

Rear End Collisions and TBI/Traumatic Brain Injury - Eight Tips from Your Atlanta Personal Injury Lawyer on How to Avoid

As a Personal Injury attorney here in Atlanta, Georgia, I have seen many cases of TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury), namely concussion, occurring as the result of a rear end collision. Brain Injury can occur very easily when you are involved in a car crash with a direct impact, such as when your vehicle is struck from behind. This can cause the brain to be jarred within the skull from the sudden impact, effectively "acceleration/deceleration" of the brain. Also common is a rotational force - where perhaps the driver or passenger is looking to the right or to the left when struck from behind. Rear end collisions commonly cause bruising of the brain with potential bleeding of the brain tissue.

As stated above, concussion is a form of Traumatic Brain Injury. What is concussion exactly? It's an altered mental state which has been brought about by an outside force causing injury to the brain. A concussion can be either mild or severe. In an accident such as a rear end collision, concussion can occur without a direct blow to the head, caused by the force of the impact jarring the head forward and then backward. It is caused when the automobile stops or starts suddenly as it would do if hit from behind.

Some symptoms of concussion to look for after an accident include dizziness, sensitivity to light and sound, blurred vision, and headache.

In actuality, most concussions do not result in loss of consciousness. Research has shown it to be less than 10%. One important thing to keep in mind is that concussion symptoms usually do not appear immediately after the crash. They tend to show up more slowly over a period of several weeks after the accident. In fact, many times doctors will recommend that other family members watch the crash victim for at least twenty-four hours following the accident for symptoms to appear. This is the reason why the insurance companies are eager to settle your case quickly - before the full extent of your injuries has surfaced and perhaps before you have visited your doctor.

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May 24, 2013

Another Resource for RSD/CRPS Patients:

Whether you live in Atlanta, Georgia, or whether you are an RSD/CRPS (Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy/Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome) patient in another part of the country, I have come across another informative RSD site which contains lots of valuable information and advice. is a site created by a Registered Nurse of 20 years after she was diagnosed with the disease. It covers many topics that are of primary concern to the RSD/CRPS patient.

In the RSD Articles library, you will find Maximizing Your RSD Doctor Visit, which tells you how to go about finding an RSD doctor in your area, and how to make the most of your visit once you have your appointment.

Another good article is 10 Tips for Living with Chronic Pain and RSD, by Jim O'Keefe.

Obtaining Low Cost Medications, also in the Articles section, tells you how to request a booklet, "Free and Low Cost Prescription Drugs". It's an A-Z listing of all drugs which are available at low to no cost through patient assistance programs. This information is not publicized by the drug manufacturing companies, it's a well kept secret.

The Symptoms tab discusses signs and symptoms of RSD and the 3 stages. The material is laid out in a very easy to read format. At the bottom of this page is a link to Pregnancy and RSD.

Is There Support for Chronic Pain and RSD lists 46 links to various sites, from those advising how to cope with pain to sites providing facts and information on various medications used to treat pain and other symptoms of RSD/CRPS. There is also a great link filled with information called RSD Puzzles, which is a Q&A with a leading RSD doctor, Dr. H. Hooshmand.

The Pain Bill of Rights reminds you that it's okay to claim the rights that you are entitled to as a chronic pain sufferer. The American Chronic Pain Association states that many chronic pain patients are "people pleasers", dismissing their own needs to assist others. The Bill of Rights serves to remind you and reinforces your knowledge as a chronic pain patient of your needs and limits, and the fact that it's ok to ask others to meet and respect them.

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May 17, 2013

NASCAR Brings the Issue of Concussions From Auto Wrecks to the Forefront

According to an article in the February 23rd edition of the New York Times, NASCAR is behind the times in dealing with concussions, in spite of the sweeping changes and preventive measures that other areas of sports have mandated. According to Dale Earnhardt Jr., the way drivers deal with concussions is outdated. Earnhardt warns drivers; do not ignore or hide the symptoms of concussion. He also advises all drivers to take an Impact evaluation test to aid in recovery from such an injury.

"This test can pinpoint where in the brain you're struggling, what kind of injury you have, what kind of things you can do to rehab and to recover," he said. "It helped me a lot. There was a lot of good information I learned throughout that whole process."

Earnhardt suffered 2 concussions last year, the first one on August 29th in a crash at Kansas Speedway, and the second in a multiple car crash on October 7th at Talladega Speedway.

In an interview following an awards ceremony in 2012, Dale said "I think I should have been smarter about the first time I crashed at Kansas and I didn't feel good and started to get nauseous after that. I knew right then I had a really bad concussion. I wish I would have taken it more seriously."

Speaking about the first crash, he said "having dealt with concussions before, I thought I would just drive through it and everything would be fine, as long as I didn't have another crash. But I wasn't lucky enough to avoid another accident. I feel foolish in that regard that I was careless." Earnhardt said that he didn't report his symptoms after the first concussion because he didn't want to be taken out of the race.

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May 10, 2013

TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) Resources for Military Personnel

Conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have unfortunately resulted in an increased number of veterans who have experienced Traumatic Brain Injuries, also known as TBIs. In fact, Traumatic Brain Injury has often been called the "signature wound" of these wars. According to the Department of Defense and the Veterans' Brain Injury Center, 22% of all combat casualties from these conflicts are brain injuries. In the military population, the primary cause of TBIs are from blasts, motor vehicle accidents, and gunshot wounds. And those at greatest risk are young men performing military duties who may have a history of prior concussion or substance abuse.

TBI is defined as when a sudden injury, such as a blow or a trauma to the head interrupts the normal functioning of the brain. Symptoms of a brain injury may be visible right away, or may not surface until weeks or even months after the initial injury.

There are different categories of TBIs. The most common form of TBI in the military is mild concussion. This is a brief loss of consciousness or confusion which can last for up to 30 minutes. A mild concussion may not even show up on a CAT scan or MRI. Some of the more common symptoms are lightheadedness, dizziness, blurred vision, ears ringing, an unusual taste in the mouth, and interruption of normal sleep patterns.

Loss of consciousness for more than 30 minutes, or amnesia after the accident, is classified as Severe Traumatic Brain Injury. The symptoms in this case are more severe, such as a headache that worsens over time or won't go away, weakness or numbness in the arms or legs, slurred speech, dilated pupils, and loss of coordination.

Recovery from a brain injury, whether mild or severe, varies greatly among individuals and depends on various factors, including how severe the injury is and whether the patient has a history of prior concussion(s). Immediate medical treatment is always necessary for preventing further damage and stabilizing the patient. In cases of severe brain injury, surgery may be required to relieve swelling to the brain and to remove or repair any ruptured blood vessels. Medication is available to assist with resulting issues of chronic pain, depression, seizures, and headaches.

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Tips for Preventing Head Injuries in Children from Your Atlanta Personal Injury Attorney

According to the Brain Injury Association of America, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is the leading cause of both disability and death in children throughout the United States, with the 2 largest age groups being from 0-4 and 15-19. Although it's never possible to protect your child 100% from head injuries or any other type of injury, there are certain things you can do to make sure they are protected as much as possible, and to ensure protection from head traumas. As a father myself, and as a personal injury attorney here in Atlanta, Georgia, I am aware of how easily and unexpectedly an injury can happen. Though some of these might seem like common sense, please review the suggestions below to ensure that your child is as safe and protected as possible from head injury or brain trauma.

Safety in your home:

  • If your child is an infant, never leave them alone on a bed, sofa, or other high area, not even for a quick moment.

  • When selecting a high chair for your child, make sure you choose one that has a wide base, to prevent it from tipping over. There should be a seatbelt with a crotch strap that goes between your child's legs to prevent him from slipping out. Make sure you always fasten him in using both the seatbelt and the crotch strap. Also make sure the tray is locked securely on both sides. And always keep the high chair positioned at least 12 inches away from the counter or table when your child is in it. This prevents him from pushing off with his feet and turning over the chair.

  • If you have firearms in your home, make sure they are locked away safely at all times in a cabinet that is inaccessible to your children.

  • If your home is two stories, be sure to use childproof gates on your stairs, both at the top and the bottom of the stairs.

  • Don't allow your child to play on trampolines, if possible. Trampolines are a leading cause of injury in children. Even when safety precautions are followed and a safety net is installed, trampolines are still extremely dangerous, according to this report entitled "Trampolines are no Place for Kids, Docs Warn"

  • If your child is in a crib, ALWAYS keep the side rails up. Don't step away even for a moment without them up - accidents always happen when you least expect it.

  • Be aware of the danger of bunk beds, and don't buy them. If you do have them already, make sure there is a side rail that is in place at night, and that the bed has a sturdy frame.

  • Automobile safety - Be sure that the car seat you are using for your child is a proper fit for their height and weight. If it's an incorrect fit this can be dangerous, and may do more harm than good. You can check with your local police station to find out where you can have the car seat checked for proper fit at no charge. You can also ask your pediatrician's office for their advice.

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RSD/CRPS and Your Atlanta Personal Injury Case - Becoming Your Own Best Advocate

As a personal injury attorney here in Atlanta, Georgia, who specializes in RSD/CRPS (Reflexive Sympathetic Dystrophy/Complex Regional Pain Syndrome) cases, I see many clients who are sufferers of chronic pain. In many instances these clients have had to visit multiple doctors and medical facilities over a number of years before being properly diagnosed with RSD/CRPS. Therefore I wanted to emphasize how very important it is for you to become your own advocate and to take charge of your own medical treatment. Doing so can lead to early diagnosis and therapy, and early detection and treatment is key in reducing the severity of the condition. You know your body better than anyone else, doctor or otherwise. RSDSA (Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome Association) has an excellent video entitled "Yes You Can - Becoming Your Own Advocate". Below are some tips from the video describing things you can do to become your own best advocate.

  • Once you have been diagnosed, it's important to understand as much as you can about the condition. Surf the web, read books, talk with others who have the condition. Get as much information as you can about the different available treatments, and take them to your doctor and discuss with him/her. Also have a list of any questions regarding points you may not understand. Because your time spent with the doctor is brief, you need to try to maximize it as much as possible.

  • Keep a pain journal - Have a system to measure your pain on a daily basis, and always write it down. Many people use a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the least severe pain and 10 being the most extreme pain. Then when you visit your doctor, be sure to take this with you so that you can figure out any patterns... times when you have more pain, perhaps activities which cause you more pain, etc.

  • Make a list of what's wrong, what's hurting, what are you having trouble with - perhaps you now have physical limitations as to what you can accomplish. What's changed since your last doctor visit? Once again, remember to always take your pain journal with you to the appointment.

  • Once you have found a good doctor, you then need to investigate all of the available treatment options. There is no single treatment that will work for RSD/CRPS. It has to be a combination of therapies. Perhaps medication plus physical therapy. Though your doctor will make recommendations, it's up to you to actually follow through and make sure that you have covered all available options for yourself.
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April 26, 2013

A Leading Source of Information on TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) - Lash Publishing

Lately I've been spending some time searching the web for relevant information and resources for those with brain injury, as well as information to help family and friends learn how to cope. Lash Publishing is a site that is dedicated entirely to brain injury of any type, whether it be TBI in children, adults, veterans, etc.

Lash Publishing has been in business for over 16 years. When they first began, their vision was to be a comprehensive source of information for those dealing with any sort of brain injury, and they wanted to provide information that was different from the academic and medical publications available at the time. 16 years ago, most of the information that was available to the general public on brain injury was complicated information from medical journals and articles, written in scientific or academic jargon. In addition, there was hardly any information to be found regarding brain injury in children. Their goal was to provide such information in a manner that would be comprehensive and easy to read for the average person. They have grown every year since their inception, and they now offer separate catalogues for children and adults.

When they first began, one of the first things they published were called "tip cards". These cards were pamphlets that presented information that was practical, quick, and easy to read. Their very first catalog had 4 of these tip cards, and today it has over 100.

Next they began developing various books and manuals that were larger and had more details. As the company grew, they outgrew their space and moved from New Hampshire to a larger facility in Wake Forest, North Carolina.

To get a feel for what their site is all about, check out their blog. They have information available on everything from "Taking the SATs with a Concussion" to information on a new workbook that focuses on coping skills for brain injury survivors as well as their friends and family. You can also sign up to receive their blog in a newsletter format by clicking here.

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April 19, 2013

HBO Documentary Chronicles Recovery of Pro-Snowboarder and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Survivor Kevin Pearce

Kevin Pearce had been a snowboarder all his life, and reached the top rungs of the sport at a young age. Then in 2009, while training to compete against his rival Shaun White in the upcoming 2010 Winter Olympics, he suffered a traumatic brain injury when he crashed at a practice in Park City, Utah. Filmmaker Lucy Walker has produced a documentary detailing Kevin's recovery and the struggles he and his family have gone through in the healing process. The film, called The Crash Reel, uses years of footage to show the excitement and appeal, as well as the high stakes, of participating in extreme-action sports. It gives an accurate portrayal of the total impact that a traumatic brain injury has on the entire family, in addition to the survivor.

Kevin says he felt compelled to do the documentary to educate young people in the sports arena and to spread awareness of TBI. "I had 8 or 9 concussions before this and I had never heard of a TBI - now we see it every day in football, extreme sports, it's everywhere," he said in an interview in January of this year.

Walker and Pearce have also teamed up to launch the "Love Your Brain Campaign", which is a social media campaign to raise awareness of TBIs, incentivize and inspire safety, and distribute information to those who are already living with TBI, to ease the process of recovery as much as possible. For more information go to

A year or so after his accident, Kevin insisted that he would be returning to competitive snowboarding, over his family's strenuous objections. Even though he knew that in his now permanently debilitated state, just a small blow to the head could be fatal to him, he still missed the excitement and the thrill of competition. Now, however, four years later, he has accepted the fact that he won't be returning to competitive snowboarding, though he does still snowboard for relaxation and enjoyment.

The HBO documentary shows footage of many of Kevin's brutal ski and snowboard crashes over the years, then his final devastating crash resulting in the traumatic brain injury in 2009, and then documents his recovery, all the way from his stay in the neurocritical care unit of the hospital to present day. While the film is more inspiring than depressing, it does an excellent job of illustrating the huge physical toll on the body of participating in extreme action sports.

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