Traumatic Brain Injuries Increase Risk of PTSD

William W. Hurst – Indianapolis Car Accident Lawyer

Studies on U.S. troops show concussions increase the likeliness of PTSD. Most of you are probably wondering why this is relevant to car accidents. Well, PTSD isn’t only connected to troops coming back from hostile environments. As any Indianapolis Car Accident Lawyer knows, it can also be seen in other traumatizing situations such as a car accident. We regularly have clients who are either afraid to get in a vehicle altogether or afraid to drive. Insurance companies often scoff at these types of claims because there is no real physical proof of injury. Studies like the two discussed here may force them to recognize the validity of such claims.

The Two Studies

The first study showed traumatic brain injuries “doubled or nearly doubled the PTSD rates . . .”. Meaning soldiers who suffered or had previously suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) such as a concussion were twice as likely to suffer from PTSD. More specifically, those who suffered a TBI while deployed were the most likely to suffer from PTSD. That means there’s a possibility that suffering a TBI increases your risk of PTSD from incidents close in time to the TBI more so than in general.

The second study sought to figure out why the correlation between TBIs and PTSD existed. In the study rats were exposed to “fear conditioning techniques” two days after suffering a TBI. The study showed that the TBI rats developed a much greater sense of fear than the control rats (those without TBIs). To further understand the root of the correlation the scientists studied the amygdala. The amygdala is a small piece of brain tissue responsible for fear learning.


What they learned is that “there were significantly more receptors for excitatory neurotransmitters that promote learning. ‘This suggests that brain injury leaves the amygdala in a more excitable state that readies it for acquiring potent fear’.” Because of this the rats who had suffered a TBI were vastly more susceptible to becoming fearful of whatever they were exposed to.

The scientists who conducted this study stated the why behind this happening needs to be further studied, but it’s my opinion that this is one of the brain’s many defense mechanisms. It becomes injured so it puts your body on high alert.
While it is true this study was performed on rats, “these findings also suggest that people who suffer even a mild traumatic brain injury are more likely to develop an anxiety disorder, and that proper management of stress after such an injury could be critically important to maintaining ones’ mental health.”


Suffering a TBI severely increase risk of PTSD and the effects must be taken seriously. This is true whether it be in soldiers or your next door neighbor who was t-boned driving to work. PTSD isn’t some made up complaint that only the “mentally weak” experience. It’s your brains way of responding to a traumatic injury, likely to protect you from further harm.

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Indianapolis Personal Injury Law William W. Hurst
William W. Hurst

Bill Hurst has successfully represented hundreds of accident victims, and has limited his practice to personal injury cases for over thirty-five (35) years.

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  1. Tom Grant Jr., DC - Med-Legal Consultant says:

    In car crashes, most PTSD’s start with a concussion event, though I’ve worked on a few that did not involve corporeal injury. In my review of thousands of medical case records, the tell tale evidence of concussion in the records goes largely uncoded. The symptoms are present, but the doctor is unaware of the signs and symptoms of a concussion, leading to the injury not being coded, or incorrectly coded, and the treatment not provided.

    “Coping” is not recovery. The brain is very plastic, meaning it can adapt to it’s new set of lower functional capacity, but adapting doesn’t mean that it’s recovered or that it will ever recover to a normal pre-incident state. That requires professional care and without that care the problem will exist for a lifetime.

    There is a current sparsity of objective evidence, but that is changing. In the interim it is not difficult to document, validate and prescribe treatment measures that can aid the victim of a concussion and their probable development of functional adaptations, one of which is PTSD.

    Standing up to insurers when your injured client is accused of it being “all in their head” is challenging. When counsel understands the medical evidence and the supportive science, it’s not the daunting task it appears to be.

    • William W. Hurst says:

      Thank you for the comment. We, as personal injury lawyers, understand the importance of being up to date on new medical evidence and supportive science. Without being current on such things we wouldn’t be able to properly represent our clients. We hope that concussions become a more accepted injury as studies of the brain and traumatic injuries further explain the two.

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