As many now know, Tiger Woods was involved in a serious automobile crash on February 26, 2021 in Los Angeles. His vehicle rolled several times and he was found unconscious in the vehicle with blood on his face and chin. The Los Angeles Fire Department had to extract him from the vehicle. He had sustained open fractures to his tibia and fibula as well as shattering his right ankle. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department continues to investigate how the crash occurred. Unfortunately for them, the only eyewitness to the crash does not even remember driving the car, let alone how it went off the road. The more cynical-minded might see Tiger’s response as a convenient excuse. But those who are familiar with traumatic brain injuries are likely asking themselves the same question – did Tiger Woods sustain a concussion?
Now, this isn’t just wild speculation. The fact that Tiger was found unconscious in the vehicle by a local resident is the first indication that he did in fact suffer a concussion. A loss of consciousness, no matter how brief, is by definition a concussion. Lapses in memory, confusion, and the inability to recall recent events are common symptoms of people who have suffered a traumatic brain injury – which includes concussions. A less understood side effect of these kinds of injuries is what is known as post-traumatic amnesia. Post-traumatic amnesia is the period of time after an injury when the brain is unable to form continuous day-to-day memories. More recently, the definition has been broadened to include a state of disorientation to time, place, and person. In this condition, the survivor may not understand who they are, where they are, or what happened to them. They may be unable to recall very basic information, such as their name, names of loved ones or friends, the date, or the name of the current president.
The duration of the symptoms associated with post-traumatic amnesia often correlate with how long the person was unconscious, often lasting 3-4 times longer than the preceding duration of the unconscious state. Aside from lapses in memory, people sometimes display bizarre or erratic emotions and behaviors. They can be disoriented, impulsive, lash out in anger, or behave in a manner that is antithetical to their normal personality. Fortunately, the effects of post-traumatic amnesia are rarely permanent, and victims normally recover in a matter of hours or weeks, depending on the severity of the traumatic brain injury.
As we learn more details about Tiger’s crash and extent of his injuries, we will come to know whether he suffered a traumatic brain injury or not. If you know someone who suffered a concussion or other traumatic brain injury, it can be difficult to understand their behavior, disturbing to see the change in cognitive function, and even exhausting to deal with them in that state. It is important for victims to address these issues by seeking appropriate medical treatment. For those living in Colorado, the Brain Injury Alliance of Colorado offers many resources for both victims and their loved ones as they cope with traumatic brain injury symptoms including support groups, recreational programs, skill building, and educational materials. We at Fuicelli & Lee know how difficult it can be for victims of TBIs and we wish Tiger a speedy and complete recovery.
-by Adam Baker