The All Mighty Brain- or is it?

17 August 2017

The head and brain are such powerful machinery. We underestimate the amount of work the brain goes through to do simple actions such as lifting a finger or moving a leg. With billions of neurons making up the brain (yes, billions!) it is quite ironic how fragile it actually is. Are we doing enough to protect our greatest tool or are we misled to believe it is all powerful and indestructible?

To put it into perspective, the below facts give an insight into the strengths and weaknesses of the brain:

  • Lack of oxygen in the brain for 5 to 10 minutes results in permanent brain damage
  • Your brain uses 20% of the total oxygen and blood around your body
  • To your brain, one sleepless night is the cognitive equivalent of being legally drunk
  • Your brain is 73% water. It takes only 2% dehydration to affect your attention, memory and other cognitive skills
  • When awake, the human brain produces enough electricity to power a small light bulb
  • Brain information moves anywhere between 1mph and 268mph. This is faster than a Formula 1 car’s top speed

Brains require nurturing through sleep, hydration, healthy eating and all life exercises we tend to neglect. However, neglect of these conditioning methods can unfortunately be damaging.

There are also outside factors which can cause devastating injuries to the brain which may be out of our control.  This could range from suffering one severe impact to the head to having an accumulation of smaller knocks build up over the years.

For example, in December 2013, 5 time Formula 1 world champion Michael Schumacher suffered a severe head injury after falling and hitting his head on a rock whilst skiing. He sustained life changing head and brain injuries even though he was wearing a ski helmet at the time. He was put into an induced coma and was reported to be stable in March 2014. It wasn’t until June 2014 that Michael displayed signs of consciousness. His condition is unknown today due to his family requesting privacy but it is reported that he is paralysed, in a wheelchair and requires lifelong rehabilitation. Any Formula 1 driver is considered to be physically fit, yet even with this level of fitness and wearing the protective gear, the fragility of the head and brain is still worryingly overwhelming.

In contrast, it does not necessarily take one severe impact to cause damage. Injuries can be sustained through years of continuous knocks to the head, no matter how small or heavy they can be. For example, there has been recent awareness raised in football linking heading the ball to long term brain damage. It has become apparent that players who head balls may be prone to developing dementia later in life.

In a recent study from University College London and Cardiff University, it was found that players who have played football for an average of 26 years are likely to develop dementia in their 60s. It was also found (when performing a post mortem examination on deceased football players) that signs of brain injuries, specifically Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), were evident. CTE has been linked to memory loss, depression and dementia and has been seen in other contact sports, most notably boxing. It is worrying to think how something as harmless as heading a football can lead to devastating life changing injuries.

Our brains can do amazing things, but with anything of such capability, there are limitations. Ignoring these limitations can lead to severe injuries, including dementia, Alzheimer’s and paralysis of limbs.

We at Kingsley Napley understand the lifelong effects of head and brain injuries. We have represented clients who have suffered traumatic brain injuries through various ways. For example, we have had cases resulting from being involved in a road traffic accident, as well as medical negligence cases involving babies who are deprived of oxygen during birth, resulting in permanent brain damage.  Whatever the cause, we aspire to make sure these individuals suffering with these injuries can still lead a normal and exciting life.

For further information, please contact a member of the Medical Negligence & Personal Injury team on 020 7814 1200 or by emailing us at

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We welcome views and opinions about the issues raised in this blog. Should you require specific advice in relation to personal circumstances, please use the form on the contact page.

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