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Brain injury awareness, diagnosis slowly increasing

Posted on in Catastrophic Injuries

There are countless ways to suffer a brain injury. Car accidents, combat and contact sports have all led to problems ranging from mild concussions to comas. Much to the frustration of both doctors and patients, there are also countless possibilities when it comes to healing from those injuries. It can be nearly impossible to determine when, if, and how long it will take for someone to completely recover.

Thanks to two wars and several lawsuits against the NFL, we're more aware than ever of the impact that a traumatic brain injury can have. But the scope of these injuries isn't limited to veterans and professional football players. Athletes at every level down to peewee soccer are susceptible to long-term effects of a serious bump on the head. Accident victims, too, can suffer the effects of a head injury without realizing how badly they've been hurt.

But a new set of guidelines from the American Academy of Neurology could change how we approach treatment of TBI, particularly when it comes to athletics. The academy plans to release its first comprehensive set of recommendations since 1997 at the end of this year. The report promises to include risk factors for athletes, how brain injuries are diagnosed, what factors can affect recovery and ways to determine when it's safe for athletes to return to the field. These guidelines could bring changes to sports leagues nationwide and prevent players from suffering serious damage.

One of the ongoing obstacles of TBI research is the fact that injuries can be incredibly difficult to diagnose. Although many concussions result in headaches, memory loss and other decreases in cognitive function, some are so minor that the sufferer doesn't even lose consciousness. Many physicians have therefore recommended that athletes undergo a cognitive baseline test before competing. If the athlete suffers a brain injury, he or she can take the same test again and the results are then compared to measure any loss of brain function that might not show up on an imaging scan.

Knowing the extent of a brain injury could also determine the amount of compensation a patient is entitled to when the injury is caused by someone else's negligence. Just like any other injury, TBI should be fully covered in personal injury claims.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle, "Awareness of brain injuries surfaces," Drew Joseph, Oct. 2, 2012

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