I was once a news reporter and I understand the process of gathering news, but it is amusing in retrospect what the first reports of a major event look like. Take for example this story in the New York Times about the American Airlines Flight 311 crash in Jamaica on December 23: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/23/world/americas/23briefs-Jamaicabrf.html?scp=1&sq;=american%20airlines%20flight&st;=cse
The story said:
An American Airlines flight from Miami overshot the runway in Kingston on Tuesday but came to a safe stop, an airline spokesman said. The spokesman, Charley Wilson, said that there were no reports of injuries or fatalities, and that all the passengers were off the plane.
How does American Airlines release a story like that? All one has to do is look at the wreckage of the aircraft to know that people had to be hurt. See the photo from the Jamaica Observer at http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Observer-first-in-the-world-to-report-AA-crash Miracles notwithstanding, there is no way an airplane is torn apart like that without injuring virtually everyone who was near the fracture points. The Jamaica Observer reported further on the status of injuries:
One hundred passengers were reported injured when the plane crashed and broke in three after landing at the airport shortly after 10:00 Tuesday night.
Most of the injuries were classified as lacerations and blood trauma. A few fractures of long bones and ribs were also reported. On Thursday, a statement from the Ministry of Health said that 13 of the 14 passengers who were admitted to hospital have since been released.
It is great news that all but one of the passengers was released from the hospital for Christmas. But as I said in my last blog, being released from the hospital does not give any of that group of injured people a clean bill of health as far as brain injury is concerned. There is no question that there were concussions on that plane. There was simply too much force involved in tearing up that jet to not have injured some brains. To tear apart an airplane like that severe twisting forces must have been involved. Those forces could have been just as severe to any passenger on board, but especially to those sitting in the seats adjacent to where the plane broke up.
The important thing now is that anyone on board who is having any head injury symptoms go back to the doctor or emergency room and get the kind of follow-up evaluation that an NFL quarterback would get. Most important in that follow-up is a determination as to whether there has been any amnesia, or loss of memory for events, between the time of the accident and the time of the evaluation. Post-traumatic amnesia is the single most important predictor of a negative outcome from a concussion. Other obvious symptoms that should be taken seriously are balance or visions problems, confusion and headache.
Concussions can disable. The concussions that disable are the ones that are symptomatic 24 to 72 hours after the injury. Now is the time to identify those symptoms.