Brain injuries, the "silent epidemic"

Brain injuries, the "silent epidemic"
by December 7, 2004

Brain injuries, the "silent epidemic"

Every 21 seconds, someone in the United States suffers a brain injury. Brain injuries are the number one cause of death and disability for people under the age of 44. Despite the high prevalence of brain injuries, there is still little public awareness of them.

Referred to as a "silent epidemic" by the Centers for Disease Control, there are 5.3 million Americans living with disabilities from a brain injury. Though it is evident to see the many number of lives brain injuries take when looking at the numbers, for the people living with a brain injury that must adjust their lives to the emotional, physical and cognitive problems that can arise after the accident, things like short and long term memory loss and learning difficulties can become a part of everyday life.

According to a neuropsychologist brain injury rehabilitation specialist, a brain injury often forces a person to no longer know their former self. Because of the brain trauma caused by automobile accidents, aneurysms, falls or any other accident, the impairment left can be devastating, ranging from physical and emotions problems to things like speech impediments, seizures and memory loss.

Most of the information learned about brain injuries has been discovered in recent years, though much still remains unknown. By studying brain injury survivors, experts have been able to uncover much more information. Scientists, until fairly recently, did not know the brain could repair itself, which has changed the way brain injury patients are attended to following the accident.

It is better understood today the way the brain changes and can compensate following a brain injury. The swelling and neurochemical changes that are present after a brain injury can sometimes cause more damage, so research has been focused on how to control injuries from worsening directly after the accident.

Patients that go through brain injury rehabilitation will mainly focus on teaching the brain new ways to function. The excruciating process can take years in behavior and cognitive therapy to relearn seemingly elementary things that were understood at childhood.

Since insurance usually covers just a small period of therapy, having access to the extensive costs of rehabilitation programs that are often necessary for brain injury patients can be overwhelmingly difficult and burdensome. If the brain injury was suffered as a result of negligence, an attorney might be able to help recover damages that can help a patient receive the proper treatment and rehabilitation that he/she deserves.

The long-term consequences of brain injuries are still very misunderstood. Advances in emergency care have allowed a higher survival rate for brain injuries, but recoveries can be long and painful and much more information is still needed. By better educating Americans about the high prevalence and consequence of brain injuries, better precaution and fewer injuries can result.

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