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Understanding the Glasgow Coma Scale

“Proper and timely use of the Glasgow Coma Scale following an accident can prevent long-term mental and physical disabilities”

Immediately following a serious automobile accident, EMTs and Emergency Room Physicians work hard to diagnose injuries and alleviate pain. Unfortunately, head and neck injuries are commonly overlooked by these healthcare providers in the aftermath of such an accident.

This is problematic because head injuries—such as mild-traumatic brain injuries (m-TBIs)—can have lasting mental and physical effects on an individual if not diagnosed immediately.

The Glasgow Coma Scale, or GCS for short or Glasgow Coma Score, is one of the benchmark protocols to test for brain injuries and concussions in the healthcare setting.

The GCS is composed of three tests: eye, verbal and motor responses. For each test, the physician gives the patient a numerical score. The three values are added together for the final tally.

The lowest possible GCS is 3 (deep coma), while the highest is 15 (fully alert). Here’s a common interpretation of the scale:



According to the Brain Injury Association of America, the classifications of brain injuries and their corresponding GCS scores are as follows:

– A GCS greater than 13indicates a mild brain injury
– A GCS between 8 and 12 indicates a moderate brain injury
– A GCS less than 8 indicates a severe brain injury

Unfortunately, in many healthcare facilities the Glasgow Coma Scale—as well as other head/neck-related protocols—are not the standard practice following an automobile accident. When an m-TBI goes undiagnosed and untreated, the brain isn’t given the opportunity to rest and recover. This can lead to life-long detrimental effects on the afflicted individual.

If you’re injured in an auto accident, it’s wise to ask the caring physician about the GCS. The level of extended care you will require depends directly on the extent of your brain injury.