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What Are Coup and Contrecoup Brain Injuries?

person lying next to brain scan images

Brain injuries, even those considered minor, almost always have an intense, unignorable impact on a person’s life.

Doctors have a number of different ways to classify traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) based on factors like severity, location, and whether the injury penetrated the skull or was considered a closed-head injury.

Among closed-head injuries, coup and contrecoup brain injuries (and coup-contrecoup injuries) are different classifications used to describe where the injury occurred in relation to where the head was struck.

These brain injuries are marked by bruising and tissue damage that arise inside the skull due to a direct blow to the head. Both “coup” and “contrecoup” are terms to define where the bruise forms.

Below we’ll answer the questions:

  • What are coup and contrecoup brain injuries?
  • What are coup-contrecoup brain injuries?
  • What are examples of each of these types of traumatic brain injuries?
  • What are the most common causes of coup and contrecoup brain injuries?
  • What are symptoms of coup and contrecoup brain injuries?
  • What are your legal options if you or a loved one suffered a preventable TBI?

What Is a Coup Brain Injury?

A coup (pronounced “coo”) brain injury is one in which the point of injury is adjacent to the point of trauma. In other words, if a person is struck on the left side of their skull, the injury is also on the left side of the brain near where they were hit.

A coup brain injury is seen as a contusion (bruise) that forms on the brain directly under the area of the head that suffered impact. Tissues and blood vessels can be torn or damaged, causing a variety of symptoms that depend on the severity of the injury.

Coup injuries can be caused by many different events. But they are most commonly associated with incidents in which a moving object strikes a stationary skull.

Examples of a Coup Brain Injury

Examples of a coup brain injury might include…

  • A spectator is hit by a foul ball and is injured at the point where the ball strikes their skull
  • A victim of assault is attacked and struck on the head, resulting in a brain injury at the spot the perpetrator hits the victim
  • A worker on a construction site sustains an injury at the crown of the scalp and brain when an object falls on them from a height

What Is a Contrecoup Brain Injury?

Contrecoup means “counterblow” in French. So while a coup injury occurs at the point of trauma, a contrecoup injury is defined as occurring at a point remote from where the patient was actually struck.

This can happen because the brain shifts inside the cranium, slamming against the opposite wall of protective bone.

Due to the force of the trauma, the brain is thrown in another direction and is damaged on its other side. Therefore, an injury forms on the brain at a point opposite from where the person was hit. However, the point of injury does not always need to be directly opposite the point of trauma, as many injuries occur at an angle.

Like coup injuries, there are a variety of circumstances that can lead to a person suffering a contrecoup TBI. But more often than not, a contrecoup happens when a moving skull strikes a stationary object.

Examples of a Contrecoup Brain Injury

A contrecoup brain injury may happen when…

  • A person’s vehicle is rear-ended, and the front of their head hits the steering wheel, causing a back-and-forth brain shift that leads to a bruise on the rear of the brain
  • A football player is hit hard in the right side of the head, causing the brain to make impact with the left side of the skull
  • A bicyclist or motorcyclist is thrown from their vehicle and hits the ground, sending their brain into movement that causes trauma on the opposite side

What Is a Coup-Contrecoup Brain Injury?

As the name implies, a coup-contrecoup brain injury involves both coup and contrecoup damage to the brain. The brain is thus injured in two locations, making this type of TBI particularly serious. It usually takes a severe blow to cause a coup-contrecoup, so this can also increase the severity of symptoms a patient experiences.

Examples of a Coup-Contrecoup Brain Injury

Coup-contrecoup injuries are often seen in motor vehicle crashes. Devastating rear-end crashes, large truck accidents, high-speed collisions, and T-bone crashes can cause coup-contrecoup brain injuries, as can many of the causes of traumatic brain injuries listed below—especially when the blow to the head is particularly violent.

What Are the Most Common Causes of Coup and Contrecoup Brain Injuries?

We’ve mentioned many situations that can lead to these closed brain injuries. To summarize, here are some of the most common causes of coup and contrecoup TBIs:

  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Motorcycle accidents
  • Bicycle accidents
  • Sports injuries
  • Slip and fall accidents
  • Workplace injuries
  • Physical assault

What Are Symptoms of Coup and Contrecoup Brain Injuries?

The symptoms a person might experience after a coup, contrecoup, or coup-contrecoup TBI depend on the area of the brain damaged, how severe the damage is, the person’s overall health condition, and other factors.

Symptoms can range anywhere from headaches and dizziness for a few days to coma and death, in the most serious cases.

There are several ways a person’s life may be affected, including:

  • Physical symptoms like headaches, nausea, dizziness, and tingling sensations
  • Cognitive impairments like confusion, brain fog, memory problems, and inability to make decisions
  • Behavioral and emotional symptoms like changes in personality, anxiety, and depression
  • Motor deficits like loss of balance, weakness, paralysis, spasticity, and tremors
  • Sensory changes like issues with vision, hearing, smell, taste, and touch
  • Communication problems like difficulty speaking, reading, writing, or understanding others

What Are My Legal Options After a Traumatic Brain Injury?

If you or a loved one suffered a TBI that should never have happened, you need a team of lawyers who focus on brain injury cases.

It’s important to work with an experienced, local personal injury law firm with a deep understanding of state laws. Your legal representatives should also have strong connections with medical professionals in the area who can serve as expert witnesses in your complex brain injury case.

For those injured by the negligence of another party—such as a reckless driver, neglectful property owner, or employer who didn’t protect the safety of workers—there are legal options. Depending on your circumstances, you may be entitled to file an injury claim or lawsuit to recover the losses resulting from your injury.

Coup and contrecoup brain injuries can change a person’s life in unimaginable ways. We are here to help families dealing with the aftermath of an injury like this. Contact our Albuquerque law office for a free consultation with an experienced brain injury attorney.

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