A recent study published in Brain reports that repetitive mild traumatic brain injury can have major long-term consequences. The study looked at athletes and military personnel who had sustained repeated hits to the head over time. 80% were found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a progressive condition whose symptoms can include memory loss, depression and dementia. There is no known cure for chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
In Ohio, a lawsuit for traumatic brain injury (TBI) will typically arise out of a car accident. But we have seen cases arising out of injuries that occur on the job, resulting from falls and from explosions. Proving brain injury in a courtroom can be difficult because injured individuals may not seek medical care immediately or may not recognize or even deny the severity of an injury at first. Caregivers, too, are prone to underdiagnosing this condition until the patient and his/her family come to grips with it many weeks after the initial injury.
The study published in Brain identified 4 progressive phases of chronic traumatic encephalopathy: (1) Stage 1: characterized by headaches and loss of attention and concentration; (2) Stage 2: depression, explosive behavior and short-term memory loss; (3) Stage 3: cognitive impairment and difficulty planning and organizing; and (4) Stage 4: dementia, aphasia and aggressive behavior.
The authors conclude that more concussions appear to be worse for an individual, even when the concussions are mild. We have seen cases where victims of a single motor vehicle collision have developed a significant post-concussion syndrome that impaired their ability to work or live safely alone without assistance or supervision. In the case of sports, especially where children who rely on adults to make safe decisions for them are concerned, policies can be developed to minimize head injuries, like a no-checking rule in hockey. Likewise, safe driving practices, like avoiding distracting behaviors like texting, can reduce the incidence of serious collisions.