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If you have heard of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) resulting from car wrecks, you probably think of crashes where someone strikes their head on the windshield or steering wheel. It is also common for people to call to mind situations in which a person gets thrown out of a vehicle during a crash.

While there is no question that blunt force trauma to the head does cause brain injuries, that form of trauma is not the only potential cause of a life-altering TBI during or after a car crash.

Rolling or spinning in a vehicle can hurt your brain

Your brain is soft, fatty tissue trapped inside an immovable bone box. Your skull does a great job of protecting your brain from injuries, but it can also be a source of injury.

When you roll, shake or rock rapidly in a car crash, potentially because the vehicle spins or flips over, your brain may get sloshed around inside your skull, causing injury, bruising and swelling. Left unaddressed, those injuries can put increasing pressure on the brain, eventually resulting in progressive or worsening symptoms.

Penetrating injuries to the head or skull can also injure the brain

Flying debris and sharp pieces of metal and glass pose an immediate threat in the crash. When you suffer a penetrating injury where shrapnel or debris enters or penetrates your skull, the risk is there for a brain injury. Medical testing, including imaging to determine if the debris is still present inside your skull, may be necessary as an important step to keep yourself and your brain safe after a crash.