Articles Posted in Brain Injury Resources

We often note how accidents on the roadway are the leading cause of serious traumatic brain injuries among all age groups. TBIs result from significant contact between the head and a hard object. Even seemingly low-speed or minor traffic accidents can produce TBIs because abrupt stops that occur in a traffic accident make it highly likely that the head will make hard contact with some surface.

Most focus on roadway accidents relates to car crashes, but all of the same principles apply to other travelers, including pedestrians and bicyclists. Bike riders in particular have made a few headlines recently as our area has grappled with some tragic Chicago bike accidents that robbed the lives of community members while raising awareness of the need to be vigilant about bicycle safety.

Chicago Bike Tributes

Last week we explained how March was being celebrated as “Brain Injury Awareness Month.” As with so many other public health and safety issues, raising awareness and educating about the issues is a critical step in addressing the problem and ultimately finding solutions to minimize the harm.

In honor of sharing information about these harms, an article in Take Part recently sought to dispel some misunderstandings about brain injuries. The headline itself is provocative: “What’s Really Causing Traumatic Brain Injury (Hint: It Isn’t Sports).” The main point that the author makes is that while sports-related TBIs have gained significant attention in recent years, they actually constitute a relatively small percentage of brain injuries. Car accidents and falls remain, far and away, the most common underlying cause of TBI.

The Basics

There is no magic bullet to “solve” the brain injury problem. The issue is so large, arises in so many different settings, and includes so many different medical concerns that we can all expect to be dealing with brain injury risks for the rest of our lives. But one simple step that can lead to beneficial benefits for all types of injuries is increased awareness. The mere act of getting more people to take some time to consider the seriousness of brain injuries and the myriad of risks they face each day may have ripple effects that ultimately change the lives of those suffering from the injury. From being more cautious when behind the wheel (car accidents are a leading cause of TBI) to prioritizing safety in sporting events, the more residents are aware of the scope of brain injuries, the better.

It is in that spirit that March has been designated at Brain Injury Awareness Month. Various events for both professionals and community members have been ongoing throughout the past few weeks. One overarching theme is to spread the message that a staggering 1.7 million Americans suffer a traumatic brain injury each and every year. In other words, these are not fluke accidents but serious systematic injuries that affect virtually everyone at one point or another.

As a Huffington Post story explained this week, the statistics remain somewhat shaky, because many people experience milder TBIs without getting a proper diagnosis or treatment. There are often no outward symptoms. Instead the harm is often felt only internally, including things like dizziness, concentration problems, nausea, and more.

It is far too early to predict how any of the legal matters related to traumatic brain injuries and various football organizations might pan out. Both the professional National Football League (NFL) as well as the NCAA college-level programs are facing various lawsuits. Accusations in those cases usually stem from claims that administrators downplayed risks, hid information, or otherwise did not do enough to protect players from known risks. Many high-profile players who suffered serious brain injury (or committed suicide with alleged connections to injury) have spurred national discussion on these issues.

While it is hard to find any silver lining in the injuries that have affected tens of thousands in big and small ways, it is clear that the national conversation is turning toward ways to address the problem. It is becoming impossible for league officials–from youth programs to professional organizations–to ignore the warning signs or fail to act to protect athletes from harm.

One step that is taking place at the higher levels is the funding of various large-scale project to improve players health and safety. For example, Forbes reported recently on new initiative launched by a joint effort from the NFL and General Electrics (GE). Known as the “Head Health Initiative” the project is a $60 million effort which will last at least four years with the goal of developing new imaging technologies. The new tools will hopefully “aid in the prevention, detection and management of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and concussions.”

The Center for Justice & Democracy recently released a report entitled, Courthouse Cornerstone: Contingency Fees & Their Importance for Everyday Americans. The study provides a helpful overview of these fee arrangements, explaining what they are, how they came about, their purpose, and the way that these agreements are used to ensure open access to the justice system. Many residents do not appreciate the value provided by this structure, and it is worthwhile to emphasize the critical role it plays in holding negligent parties accountable for paying for the consequences of their actions.

What It Is

The civil justice system has a cost. Court fees must be paid to keep the operations of the system running. Attorneys must be paid, as the work is their source of personal income. Litigation itself has a cost, as traveling to depositions, compensating expert witnesses, copying documents, and similar steps all must be handled.

Medical researchers working on every injury always have the ultimate hope that there will be a “magic bullet” cure which will return patients to normal. History shows that, at times, this actual bears fruit. Diseases and ailments of the past have occasionally been completely eradicated thanks to simple cures or preventative tools that were discovered.

However, it would be naive to suggest that something so complex as a traumatic brain injury will have a simple fix in the form of a pill or a shot. After all, the brain is, by far, the most complex organ in the body. There is still so much that we do not know about the brain, how it works, how it heals, and how it is damaged.

The complexity of the task does not necessarily mean that there is no hope for medical researchers to find some treatment options that can bring significant improvements for brain injury victims in simple ways. In fact, some researchers are suggesting that they may have done just that. As reported in a recent story on their work, experts out of Duke University believe that a simple hormone may prove to be immensely beneficial for those head injury sufferers.

On several occasions we have explained the challenges faced by some who win brain injury verdicts and settlements to actually recover their earnings. Depending on the specifics of the case, many different hoops might need to be jumped through before an injury victim actually receives their compensation and can use it to get their lives back in order.

One of those hoops is often dealing with the Medicare Secondary Payer system (MSP). Those who rely on government programs with their health insurance needs, may be forced to wait months (or even years!) before the final details of their situation are settled. That is because the MSP system is often ridiculed in delays and errors.

The MSP is implicated when the public program provides payment for a participant and then seeks to have that payment reimbursed following an injury verdict or settlement. For example, a senior who is on Medicare may be involved in a car accident and suffer a traumatic brain injury. Medicare will likely cover the associated healthcare costs for the participant in the aftermath of the accident. However, if the participant eventually receives a settlement from the negligent party in the accident, then Medicare will seek reimbursement via the MSP system.

The connection between certain sports and long-term head injury complications have been much-discussed in recent years. Advances in brain injury detection and new studies on the lifelong harm often attributed to those injuries has focused critical attention on the games that many play beginning as children which might increase the risks. Sports like football, hockey, soccer, and boxing have received the lion’s share of attention. They are all games where significant, repeat head trauma are ingrained in the sport. Experts are still unraveling the mysteries of how much playing these games repeatedly affects the rest of the player’s lives.

For one of those sports, some are now questioning whether it is at all possible to play without being harmed. In other words, the discussion has shifted from “risks that an injury will develop” to “seven slight chances that one can escape unscathed.”

Boxing and Brain Injury

The most serious brain injuries–often related to car accidents–sometimesthrow those affected into a “vegetative state.” As most know from high-profile cases, this condition signifies a virtual inability to interact with the outside world. Those in a vegetative state are essentially stagnant, unable to move voluntarily, communicate, or otherwise engage with those around them. It refers to an unconcious mind. This is often a permanent condition, leading families to make very difficult quality of life and long-term care choices.

However, a new case discussed by BBC News is raising many eyebrowns, as it stems from a patient in a vegetative state who was apparently able to communicate with doctors who were using an fMRI machines to measure the patient’s brain when asked questions. An examination of the brain apparently allowed the doctors to identify the patient’s response.

Communicating Through Brain Waves?

Brain injuries and their long-term consequences have made many headlines recently, often connected to military veterans. That is because the fights in Iraq and Afghanistan came with may explosives and follow-up traumatic brain injuries. Properly caring for those hurt overseas is of paramount importance, and so researchers have been working hard to try to get to the bottom of these injuries. That work includes coming up with better ways to indentify brain injuries as well as fully understanding the long-term consequences of those injuries.

For example, Science Codex reported yesterday on new research examining the effects of these injuries on vision. Researchers presented two separate studies on this issue at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Opthalmology. The main conclusion was that many veterans who suffer a brain injury (or post-traumatic stress disorder) may also have vision problems that go undiagnosed.

The Brain Injury/Vision Research

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