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Work-Related Neurological Injuries: Recognizing and Managing Risks

Work Injury Treatment Options After Delayed Symptoms

See a doctor for treatment for work-related injuries to your head. Call (347) 602-9530 for an appointment.

Even when you work in a relatively safe environment where you don’t perform much, if any, physical labor, there’s a risk you could sustain a work-related neurological injury. Any time you hit your head (or something hits your head), there’s potential for a life-altering traumatic brain injury.

Seeking a medical evaluation and treatment for TBI as soon as possible is critical to managing your symptoms and recovering from the injury. Neurodiagnostics Medical P.C., home to the top neurologist in NYC, Dr. Ashwin Malhotra, works with many patients who sustain workplace injuries and need help managing the physical, cognitive, and psychological issues that can arise from TBIs.

Understanding Workplace Brain Injuries 

Most people associate TBIs, like concussions, with intense contact sports like football, car accidents, or other incidents where their head impacts something else. However, the CDC reports that work-related traumatic brain injuries account for 20% to 25% of occupational injuries and work-related trauma. 

People working in construction have the highest risk of sustaining a TBI at work. About one-quarter of all workplace fatalities across all industries occur among construction workers, according to the CDC. The potential for falls from higher elevations or objects striking the head is highest in this environment, which puts workers at a greater risk for a devastating head injury. 

Anyone working in any environment can sustain a brain injury, though. The most common causes include:

  • Slips, trips, and falls
  • Overexertion
  • Contact with equipment or objects 
  • Motor vehicle accidents 

Even a minor head injury can affect your ability to return to work. Some studies indicate that as many as 20% of people with work-related injuries cannot return even one to two years later. Getting help with injuries resulting from a head injury at work from a neurologist in NYC as soon as possible can help you return to your pre-injury life sooner and better manage ongoing symptoms. 

Signs and Symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injuries 

Medical providers use the terms “mild,” “moderate,” and “severe” to categorize the extent of the injury’s effect on brain function. Symptoms don’t always appear immediately; it can take several weeks or months to notice the impact of the injury. 

The potential for a delayed reaction underscores the need to see a neurologist in NYC right away if you fall and hit your head or experience any other accident that impacts your skull. Even if you don’t think you have anything but a slight bump on the head, you could have bruising, bleeding, or tissue damage that requires medical intervention. 

Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries 

In most cases, the effects of a mild TBI are temporary, lasting just a few days or weeks. Symptoms can be physical and cognitive. 

Physical symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness or balance issues
  • Speech issues

Cognitive issues include:

  • Blurred vision and sensitivity to light
  • Disorientation 
  • Memory or concentration issues
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Mood swings, depression, and anxiety
  • Difficulty concentrating 

Moderate To Severe Traumatic Brain Injuries 

Moderate to severe TBI can cause long-term complications or even death. Symptoms can include those of a mild injury plus the following. 

Physical symptoms:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Dilated pupils
  • Loss of coordination
  • Numbness or weakness in the extremities 
  • Clear fluids draining from the nose or ears
  • Difficulty waking up 

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Extreme confusion
  • Slurred speech 
  • Unusual aggressive behavior
  • Coma

What Is Post-Concussion Syndrome?

For about 90% of people with mild TBI, the symptoms resolve in 10 to 14 days. If they linger for longer, doctors may diagnose post-concussion syndrome. In most cases, patients fully recover within a few months, and fewer than 10% have symptoms for a year or longer. 

If you are dealing with ongoing concussion-related symptoms, you can request accommodations. 

Diagnosing Head Injuries and Illnesses

What Doctor Should You See After a Workers Comp Injury

Neurologists perform a battery of tests to check patients for concussions and TBI. Most evaluations begin with a symptom checklist or questionnaire to check:

  • Motor function
  • Balance and coordination 
  • Alertness
  • Memory
  • Focus 
  • Problem-solving 
  • Vision and hearing
  • Reflexes

Depending on the results of these tests or the specifics of your work-related injuries, your doctor may order additional imaging and blood tests. An MRI or CT scan can reveal brain bleeding, for example, while a blood test called the brain trauma indicator can indicate the presence of specific proteins associated with brain bleeding. These proteins spike within hours of the injury, so prompt attention is critical for this diagnosis. 

Treating Work-Related Neurological Injuries 

Seeking prompt treatment for neurological injuries has a demonstrated effect on your ability to return to work. In fact, research shows that addressing both the physical and psychological effects of a concussion with a structured, clinically driven program allows 99% of people to return to work without restrictions or accommodations.

When you work with a neurologist in NYC to address a neurological injury, treatment protocols may include a range of therapies, including:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Cognitive rehabilitation
  • EEG-based neurofeedback for mindfulness and meditation
  • Medication 
  • Occupational therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Speech therapy
  • Vestibular rehabilitation
  • Vocational rehabilitation 

Emergency Treatment for TBI

Severe TBIs may require emergency surgery to address and prevent further damage. Surgeons may need to insert a catheter into the skull to drain fluid and release pressure, remove damaged tissue, repair a skull fracture, or remove hematomas. After surgery, patients begin rehabilitation.

Returning to Work After an Injury 

When you can expect to return to work varies depending on the severity of your symptoms and how well your treatment progresses. The Concussion Alliance recommends a six-step process that includes time at home and a gradual return to normal activities. It’s best to make a multi-phase return to work plan that allows you to pace yourself.

Working with a neurologist to treat your work-related injuries can help you communicate with your employer more effectively and develop a plan for returning to work that meets everyone’s needs. Overextending yourself can worsen symptoms and extend recovery, so it’s critical to take your time and give your brain time to heal before engaging in mentally taxing or physically strenuous activities. 

Preventing Work-Related Injuries 

Although workers in particular industries, like construction, have a greater risk of sustaining work-related injuries, accidents can happen anywhere. Everyone is responsible for maintaining a safe work environment to prevent serious injuries that can have debilitating effects on every aspect of their life. 

Some of the basic safety measures that can help reduce accident risks include:

  • Maintaining safe staffing levels to prevent fatigue
  • Performing frequent inspections to identify and mitigate hazards 
  • Providing safety equipment and training in its use
  • Maintaining a clean, uncluttered work environment 
  • Assigning tasks to employees who have the physical capability to do them

Establishing a Concussion Prevention Program 

Another element of reducing the risk of workplace head injuries is a comprehensive concussion prevention program. These efforts begin with establishing a protocol for dealing with head injuries and suspected concussions in the workplace that includes specific response measures and guidelines for returning to work. Ongoing concussion safety training can also reduce the likelihood of sustaining a head injury at work. 

See a Provider at Neurodiagnostics Medical P.C. for Help With Traumatic Brain Injury

Sustaining a brain injury at work can mean weeks or even months of disruptive symptoms. Seeking a diagnosis and beginning treatment during the acute phase of the injury can help reduce its impact on your life and get you on the road to a faster recovery. Turn to the neurologist NYC residents trust, Dr. Malhotra at Neurodiagnostics Medical P.C. , for compassionate and comprehensive care for brain injuries.

In addition to concussions and other TBIs, the neurologist treats nerve pain, sleep disorders, car accident injuries, and more. Make an appointment today by calling (347) 602-9530. Our doctors accept most insurance plans, including workers’ compensation, no-fault, and PIP (personal injury protection). Same-day appointments may be available.

FAQs About Work-Related Neurological Injuries 

Can work-related injuries affect you decades later? 

A brain injury can affect you for decades, causing emotional, cognitive, and physical symptoms ranging from anxiety and depression to sleep and digestive disorders and heart rate and blood pressure issues.

Can I make a worker’s compensation claim for a head injury sustained at work?

If you sustain a head injury at work due to employer negligence or the actions of another person, you may be eligible to make a worker’s compensation claim and receive compensation. 

What happens if you don’t treat a mild traumatic brain injury?

Without treatment, a mild TBI, like a concussion, can cause migraines, balance issues, brain fog, confusion, fatigue, and vision changes. In the long term, the effects can include vertigo, mood swings, problems with speech and comprehension, visual disturbances, and seizures.

Do brain injuries ever fully heal?

Although studies indicate that damaged or destroyed brain cells never regenerate, your brain can learn to work around the damage, or other parts of the brain can take on the functions of the damaged areas. Everyone’s recovery is different; some people require ongoing treatment and rehabilitation for work-related injuries.

About The Author

Picture of Ashwin Malhotra, M.D.

Ashwin Malhotra, M.D.

Ashwin Malhotra, M.D. is a highly respected neurologist based in New York City. With over 20 years of experience in the field of neurology, he has earned a reputation as a leading expert in the diagnosis and treatment of neurological disorders and traumatic brain injuries. In addition to his clinical work, Dr. Malhotra is also a dedicated educator and researcher. He has published numerous articles in peer-reviewed medical journals and has presented his research at national and international conferences.