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Articles Posted in Brain Injury Recovery

September is suicide awareness month and recent studies suggest a possible link between traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) in youth and increased suicide risks. According to a study reported by Psych Central, teenagers who experience a traumatic brain injury have “significantly greater odds” of developing high-risk behaviors, including suicidal tendencies.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) describes a TBI as a “disruption to normal brain function” caused by a sudden blow or jolting of the head. These conditions range from mild to severe depending on the level of injury. Mild TBIs are generally known as concussions, while severe injuries may result in long term memory loss and extended unconsciousness. Youth and teens are at an increased risk for TBIs, due to falls and participation in youth recreation. The CDC reports that in 2009, almost 250,000 children under the age of 19 were treated for sports related injuries, including TBI diagnoses.

The teen TBI study was conducted in Canada, where more than 9,000 students in grades seven through 12 were surveyed about their health and well-being, including traumatic brain injuries. It is reportedly estimated that nearly 20% of teens in the area experienced a TBI as some point in their youth. According to the article, study researchers concluded that teens with a history of TBI were twice as likely to experience bullying from classmates and three times as likely to attempt suicide. Specific observed negative behaviors included:
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Traumatic brain injuries send approximately 1.5 million people to the emergency room every year. They are the top cause of death and disability in individuals under the age of 45, according to the Brain Trauma Foundation. There are currently 5.3 million Americans living with brain injury disability. Rates of recovery differ, depending on the seriousness of the injury. While researchers have identified numerous factors that affect the rate of healing, recent studies suggest that patients with higher levels of education exemplify a better rate of recovery.

Scientists from Johns Hopkins University recently conducted a research study about “cognitive reserve”, which measures the brain’s functionality when damaged. According to a report by CBS News , researchers determined that patients were more likely to recover from brain injuries if they had earned at least an undergraduate degree prior to their injury. These results are reportedly similar to previous findings in dementia studies, where patients with advanced education showed a slower progression of the disease.
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Researchers at Wake Forest University are working on a new and innovative treatment for traumatic brain injuries. According to the study, which was published in the health journal Neurosurgery, careful applications of vacuum pressure can control further brain tissue damage following an injury. The process is called “mechanical tissue resuscitation” and its study is funded in part by the United States Army.

Presently, the research is conducted on swine with localized brain injuries. Physicians reportedly placed a low pressure vacuum over the infected areas of their brains and monitored the effects at varying levels of pressure and application times. According to the research report, the results showed that “applying 100 mm Hg of pressure for three days led to a significantly smaller area of brain contusion and reduced bleeding, compared to no pressure”. Researches further noted that the brains of the treated animals were closer to normal than those left untreated.After five days of consistent treatment, all of the treated animals survived. According to the study, the surviving animals showed no signs of deformations in the brain or the development of seizure activity. Researchers reportedly assert that these results stem from an increase in blood flow to the injured tissue. The vacuum pressure reportedly starts the process of oxygenation, when wastes are removed from the area and replaced with healing nutrients.

Mechanical tissue resuscitation is an evolution of the vacuum process, which is successfully used to treat other injuries. However, more research is reportedly necessary before the technique is tested on humans. Researchers state “The ability of mechanical tissue resuscitation to achieve meaningful reduction in loss of brain tissue and hemorrhage injury warrants further investigation.”

A traumatic brain injury can carry extensive costs associated with both immediate and long term care. Even if you are financially stable, with savings and an excellent health insurance plan, the cost of caring for a traumatic brain injury patient can place you in a challenging financial situation. The Brain Injury Institute discusses the financial, physical and emotional costs.

Financial Costs:

Loss of Income
**If the patient is able to return to work, he or she may find themselves unable to perform the work duties as before, resulting in employment that earns less income.
The patient may only work part time due to medical concerns, resulting in a loss of expected income.
**In the worst case scenario, the patient may lose the ability to work at all.
**This is not only applicable to the patient. The caregiver also has to sacrifice time away from work. In the short term, this may mean a temporary absence for a particular period of time. However, this becomes a long term consideration if the best plan of action for the patient entails a family member acting as the primary caregiver.
**For a child, a TBI may prohibit their ability to acquire a higher level of education, limiting their employment opportunities for the future.
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Transforming Glial Cells into Neurons

While the concept of stem cell therapy is not new, scientists at Penn State University have finally unlocked an innovative method to regenerate functional neurons following traumatic brain injury (TBI). Gong Chen and his research team at Penn State used reactive glial cells, the building blocks of the central nervous system, to regenerate healthy and functional neurons in humans.

Neurons are pathways that transmit signals such as touch or pain to the brain. During head trauma such as TBI, neurons die off. In response to injury, glial cells become reactive and multiply. The glial cells rush in to prevent bacteria growth and to protect any healthy brain tissue. However, after the threat is gone, many glial cells remain and inhibit the remaining healthy neurons from growing in the injured region. These reactive glial cells form what is known as a glial scar.

The Department of Veterans Affairs approved a new rule that will create easier access to health care for veterans for five diseases and disabilities proximately caused by service-connected traumatic brain injuries. The new regulations were published on December 17, 2013 and can be found at 8 CFR §3.310(d).

According to the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, over 287,000 U.S. military members have been diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury since 2000. However, over 80% of these injuries are not deployment related. Currently, approximately 51,000 veterans are receiving compensation for Veterans Affairs for service-connected brain injuries. The amendment to 8 CFR §3.310(d) will enable more veterans to claim benefits for disabilities that can be linked to a service-connected brain injury rather than the service activity itself.

Previous Rule

It is no secret that traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) can turn one’s life upside down. That is true even in cases that, at first, seem “minor.” Concussions are frequently still viewed as less serious head injuries, and some still shake them off as temporary ailments that will not have any long-term consequences. This is a mistake. The brain is so complex that scientists have yet to fully grasp how it all works. Many unanswered questions remain. But what is not in dispute is that all sorts of head injuries can alter virtually any aspect of one’s life.

It is for that reason that, when negligence is at the root of the injury, it is critical for families to consider their legal options. Brain injury lawsuits ensure that, of all the other challenges facing an injured party, finances will be handled. Money is often an additional burden on families in the aftermath of these accidents. For example, if a family breadwinner is injured and unable to work, it may be difficult for a spouse and children to pay bills and time and simply put food on the table.

Far-Reaching TBI Consequences

The “Holy Grail” for medical professional working with traumatic brain injury (TBI) victims is a method to heal parts of the brain previously damaged. Up until now, most of the work of these teams was learning how to prevent further damage and maximize the strength of undamaged parts of the brain. For example, the increasing use of “brain cooling” procedures is seen as a way to prevent the cascade of brain damage the occurs even after an initial injury. Also, therapies used in recovery are mostly aimed at strengthening and rejuvenating parts of the brain previously undamaged by the incident–not necessarily “fixing” the components that were harmed. The actual regeneration of damaged brain tissue is a whole other matter.

All of this means,unfortunately, that TBI victims–particularly those with the most serious injuries–may struggle to ever to get their lives back exactly as they were before an accident.

However, medical researchers continue to break new ground which may offer more hope to those seriously affected by a TBI. In fact, as reported this week by Medical Express, new advances from researchers at the Sagol School of Neuroscience suggest that “it is possible to repair brains and improve the quality of life for TBI victims, even years after the occurrence of the injury.”

Like a freight train, more and more information continues to come out building the case for the long-term harm caused by all forms of brain injury. Far more than we previously knew, damage to the head can impact so many areas of one’s life. Beyond the physical damage, there is social, mental, and emotional harm that plagues many who are hurt. This is true no matter the injured party–from children to the elderly. When considering the legal ramifications when negligence is a cause in the harm, the expansive nature of the consequences must be factored.

Young Depression

The latest news on the subject comes from a new study presented at the national conference this week of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Researchers took a look at a subject that is well-known in adults but less understood in children: the link between brain injury and depression.

Over the past year, many headlines were made regarding the thousands of former NFL players who filed suit against the league. The claims made by players are widespread, but all stem around league actions which increased concussions for players and otherwise led to the athletes suffering long-term harm.

The case took a new turn in recent weeks with an apparent settlement between the league and roughly 4,500 players who were part of the initial matter. Multiple sources reported on a $765 million settlement. The money will mostly go to aid in the recovery of injured former players with some of the settlement earmarked for education and prevention efforts.

Some assume that this proposed settlement will end the matter. But that assumption is a bit premature. Other athletes still remain and future actions are not out of the question. In fact, one was just filed last week.

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