Jules Bianchi’s Traumatic Brain Injury – Diffuse Axonal Injury

The family of French Formula One driver, Jules Bianchi, released a statement saying that Bianchi sufferred a serious traumatic brain injury in his crash at the Japanese Grand Prix.  The statement says that Bianchi suffered diffuse axonal injury and is in critical condition.  Bianchi is in the Intensive Care Unity of the Mie General Medical Center in Yokkaichi, Japan.  Bianchi crashed with a recovery vehicle that was removing the car of Adrian Sutil, which had skidded off the track moments earlier in a rain-affected race.

What is Diffuse Axonal Injury?

Diffuse axonal injury results from the brain moving back and forth in the skull as a result of acceleration or deceleration.  The injury is called diffuse because unlike some other brain injuries that are focal, in one general area; this type of brain injury is widespread –  affecting a larger area. Diffuse axonal brain injury is caused by the movement of the brain within the skull. This type of closed head injury can be much more dangerous than an open head injury because of the tearing of the brain tissue and the swelling that can occur.  These acceleration/deceleration movements the nerve cells that allow the neurons to send messages between them.  Once those cells are disrupted and the links between them broken, the signalling process cannot occur and functions like movement, speech, and even those that support life can cease.  Sadly, the statement released by Mr. Bianchi’s family and hospital suggests that Mr. Bianchi’s brain damage is preventing his body from carrying out some or all of these functions.

Causes of Diffuse Axonal Injury

Automobile crashes in which a person’s head and upper torso are whipped back and forth are a common cause of traumatic brain injury with diffuse axonal injury.  Likewise, sports-related accidents, bomb blasts from an IED, violence, falls, and child abuse such as Shaken Baby Syndrome are common causes of diffuse axonal injury. Importantly, these causes often do not involve a blow to the head, but rather the shaking of the brain within the skull.

Bianchi is 25 years old and just debuted in 2013 on the  Formula One circuit.