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Long-Term Brain Injury Consequences: More Likely to Commit Crimes?

The serious nature of brain injuries is well-known. In extreme cases, those suffering serious traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) can have their lives turned upside down-often needing around-the-clock care for the rest of their lives. Our lawyers working on these cases have helped families recover significant sums to pay for a lifetime of care.

But researchers have more recently pointed out that even seemingly less serious TBIs can cause serious long-term problems. Often, those problems are hard to identify, because they do not correspond to obvious outward problems. This includes all those cases involving personality changes. It is not uncommon for friends and family members to notice peculiarities about certain individuals after an injury-even though they seem to have recovered physically.

We will no doubt continue to learn about these long-term personality and internal conduct changes as researchers delve more into the issue. But some interesting arguments are already being made.

For example, NBC 12 News reported this week on a new study which suggests that youngsters who suffer traumatic brain injuries may be more likely to wind up getting into legal trouble as they age. Researchers from the Virginia Juvenile Justice system are looking into the issue, and they have already made some interesting findings.

Perhaps most glaringly, researchers note that about 20% of all juvenile currently incarcerated have some form of head injury. That seems like a shockingly large number, particularly because it represents a skewed percentage-20% of all children do not have these injuries.

That finding mirrors the colloquial experience of one brain injury researcher interviewed for the story. The medical researcher noted that in his 25 years investigating brain injuries, about 25% of the patients he worked with had some sort of legal run-in. This experience is what first led him to consider the link between crime and TBI. He initiated contact with the VA Juvenile Justice Department to work on this latest project. He was also instrumental in training interviewers to evaluate the 600 young and detained children involved in the study.

The researcher noted that all of this work will hopefully result in better standardized testing for screening children in the juvenile justice system for these injuries. Of course, the idea is that these children can benefit enormously from special services to help recover from their injuries in hopes that their long-term future will be improved. Brain injuries that are not treated have the potential to cause life-long damage-often without anyone ever realizing that the damage was a factor in one’s conduct.

The Commissioner of the state’s Department of Juvenile Justice was optimist, asking: “Can we cease this recidivism that we see, that have people that cycle in and out of the correctional system from the juvenile system to the adult system, time after time after time?”

It is hard to say how these sorts of arguments will ultimately influence lawsuits or brain injury cases. However, at the very least it is yet another factor for all community members to consider when working on prevention and treatment strategies for TBI, particular involving young children and teens.

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