March is Brain Injury Awareness Month and it’s a time to shine a light on the prevention of traumatic brain injury (TBI) while promoting ways to improve the quality of life of people living with TBI and their families.
According to the Brain Injury Association of America, there are more than 5.3 million children and adults in the U.S. living with a permanent brain injury-related disability.
That works out to one in every 60 people – and stats show that every 9 seconds someone in the U.S. sustains a brain injury.
Research on how to detect, diagnose, and treat TBI – and understand the long-term effects of it – has come a long way since doctors first identified the condition.
Two decades later, recent breakthroughs continue to make it easier to treat this life-changing condition, often called an “invisible injury.”
Read on to learn about 4 notable breakthroughs in TBI research in 2021.
Sleep Plays a Critical Role in Healing TBI
Study Finding: Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) has developed a new MRI technique that can be used to evaluate the enlargement of perivascular spaces that surround blood vessels in the brain. Enlargement of these spaces occurs in aging and is associated with the development of dementia. The military veterans participating in the study who slept poorly had more evidence of these enlarged spaces and more post-concussive symptoms.
What It Means: This observation sheds light on the effects of poor sleep on recovery after a TBI. According to an OSHU researcher: “This study suggests sleep may play an important role in clearing waste from the brain after traumatic brain injury — and if you don’t sleep very well, you might not clean your brain as efficiently.”
Identifying Biomarkers to Diagnose Mild TBI
Study Finding: A study conducted by the University of Eastern Finland showed that certain plasma microRNAs, as shown in animal models, are biomarkers that could successfully be used to diagnose mild TBI. Mild TBI is difficult to detect with conventional imaging methods and many patients don’t exhibit visible structural damage to the brain, which could be detected by computer tomography. It’s important to diagnose TBI early to be able to slow negative effects and prevent a deteriorated quality of life.
What It Means: More research is needed, but if successful, these biomarkers are a minimally invasive, cost-effective way to diagnose mild TBI early and gauge the severity of the TBI. According to the study authors, there is a major unmet medical need to identify accurate, affordable, and widely accessible diagnostic biomarkers that can be used to better diagnose patients and guide them to timely, rehabilitative treatment.
Self-Paced Activity After a Concussion Neither Hastens or Prolongs Recovery
Study Finding: A study by Nationwide Children’s Hospital found that self-paced physical and cognitive activity during the first week after sustaining a concussion neither hastened nor prolonged recovery in children and teens. Researchers found that while daily physical and cognitive activity increased across the first week post-injury, daily post-concussion symptoms in study participants (11-17 years old) decreased. Increased daily step count was associated with an increased likelihood of early symptom resolution.
What It Means: Researchers say these findings indicate that children and teens who have suffered concussions may have some flexibility in determining their own activity levels during recovery. Additional research aims to provide evidence of when an individual is ready for physical and cognitive activity after concussion and what level of activity is most appropriate. This information could be used by clinicians to inform treatment decisions, including individualized physical and cognitive activity recommendations post-concussion.
More Evidence that Single Head Injury Can Lead to Dementia
Study Finding: A study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine shows that a history of a single prior head injury was associated with a 1.25 times increased risk of dementia. A history of two or more prior head injuries was associated with over 2 times the increased risk of dementia than when compared to individuals without a history of head injury.
What It Means: The results of this study suggests that prevention of a head injury could mitigate some risk of dementia later in life. While head injury is not the only risk factor for dementia, it is one risk factor for dementia that is modifiable by behavior changes such as wearing helmets and seat belts. The results of this study are also among the first findings to specifically investigate head injury and dementia risk in both black and white populations, as well as among both males and females, in a community-based setting.
Additional ongoing research will continue to bring us closer to quicker and easier diagnoses of TBI and more effective treatment options that protect your quality of life.
Learn more about TBI and your legal options.
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If you or a loved one has suffered a TBI because of the negligence of someone else, reach out to me with your questions. I’m here to help you understand your legal rights, manage your case, and get you the compensation you deserve for lost wages, medical bills, pain and suffering, and more. Call me at 703-813-6460 or contact me.