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Rise in Traumatic Brain Injuries Among Veterans and Athletes Prompts New Research

Since 2000, approximately 245,000 men and women who have served in the military have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury, otherwise known as TBI.

The majority of those cases were mild; but, even mild traumatic brain injuries can be highly disruptive to daily life. Unlike severe brain injuries, mild TBI can be harder to detect. Sometimes, a mild TBI is not recognized for weeks or even months after an accident. Recent publicity has focused attention on studies demonstrating that TBI is often not recognized in athletes until long after the injury occurs. For example, we now understand that even with specially designed helmets, NFL players may manifest severe disability years after their careers are over.

With nearly a quarter of a million service members suffering a TBI over the last decade, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has been funneling money into brain injury research. With a better understanding of traumatic brain injury, TBI sufferers stand to benefit from a broader range of treatment alternatives.

One of the latest studies was announced by the VA in June. Published in the journal Nature, researchers outlined how two individuals who had lost functional use of their limbs due to TBI were able to reach and grasp objects using robotic arms controlled solely by brain activity. This was the first peer-reviewed study to demonstrate that patients with tetraplegia can control robotic arms using only neural activity.

A sister study, this one printed in the publication Science Translational Medicine, examined a specific subset of TBI, chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, is characterized by large accumulations of tau proteins that kill brain cells in regions responsible for mood, emotions and executive functioning. Previously, CTE was thought to be caused solely by repeated head trauma — but the new study proved that even exposure to a single blast (like those generated by a typical improvised explosive device) can result in CTE.

The most recent TBI research was kicked off in early July. With the help of a $920,000 grant from the VA, researchers at Indiana University began a five-year program to develop a new and better system to help patients self-manage mild traumatic brain injuries. Five VA hospitals in four states will test the new TBI management system.

What If A Traumatic Brain Injury Has Impacted Your Life?

All of this groundbreaking research could help TBI sufferers lead more normal, healthy lives. But one thing it won’t do is reduce the significant costs associated with treating TBI or eliminate the significant impact TBI has on issues involving quality and enjoyment of life.

If you or a loved one has suffered a TBI, you may be facing substantial medical bills; treatment needs may have even put you out of work. But, there may be resources or even compensation available to help you face the difficulties you and your family will endure. Talk to a personal injury attorney today to learn more about how a lawsuit could help you collect monetary damages from anyone you sincerely believe is responsible for causing a traumatic brain injury.

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