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A New Study Re: Assessing Brain Injury Recovery Times in Children

A recent medical study has made a significant step toward identifying a biomarker in the brain that detects how long it may take a child (and possibly adults) to recover from a traumatic brain injury (TBI). The study not only impacts TBI treatment but also potentially affects provable damages in legal claims involving a TBI.

The study addresses identification of the lasting effects of a TBI in children. []. Emily Dennis, PhD, the study’s lead author, states that “it’s difficult to predict long-term outcome and which kids need more aggressive treatment.” [citation: Inside View, Which Kids Take Longer to Recover From Brain Injury?, Centre for Neuro Skills, Issue 26.3, Summer 2017 (“Inside View”)]. Indeed, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that “[t]hose who survive a TBI face effects that last a few days, or the rest of their lives.” [citation:]. Dr. Dennis continues by noting that a TBI is the leading cause of disability in children. (Id.) Moreover, another study reported findings that a moderate TBI accounts for the vast majority of TBI injuries in children. [citation:].

Dr. Dennis studied twenty-one children (ages eight to eighteen years old) who had recently suffered from a moderate to severe TBI and compared these children with twenty children of the same age with no brain injury. Among other testing, the study examined the transfer of information across the corpus callosum (a collection of white matter that connects the two hemispheres of the brain) while the children were completing cognitive tasks. (Id.) Compared to the children with no brain injury, half of the children with a TBI suffered from a slow transfer time (slow transfer group) across the corpus callosum and the other half (non-slow transfer group) did not differ from the non-injury group. (Id.) Additionally, there were disruptions to the white matter in the brains of the slow transfer group that got worse in the year from the first scan to the second scan while the non-slow transfer group showed signs of recovery during the same period. (Id.) Thus, a slow transfer time of information in the corpus callosum and disruption to the white matter therein signifies that the TBI will have prolonged effects.

The extent of a TBI is a fundamental issue that faces any person who wants to recover damages for his or her injury. Indeed, a plaintiff’s claim ultimately depends on evidence to support it.  A plaintiff with a TBI likely faces difficulties in assessing damages and establishing the proof needed to fully recover. As the CDC notes, “The signs and symptoms of a concussion [a mild TBI] can be difficult to sort out. Early on, problems may be overlooked by the person with the concussion, family members, or doctors. People may look fine even though they are acting or feeling differently.” [citation:].

This study provides those who suffered from a TBI with a potential method or basis for proving the extent of the injury as well as the proper treatment for recovery. This is a widespread issue as millions of Americans suffer from TBI-related symptoms annually. This includes approximately 329,290 children, in 2012 alone, treated in emergency departments for traumatic brain injuries resulting from sports and recreational activities. [].

The study is an important step in “predict[ing] the trajectory of a TBI recovery.” (Id. quoting Bradley L. Schlaggar, MD, PhD) As the biomarker identified in the study is further developed, the ability to prove and recover for brain injuries may increase.

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