Study: Even mild brain injuries cause long-term damage

| Oct 6, 2020 | Workers' Compensation

Research conducted in recent years has made it clear that head injuries are always serious and that TBI (traumatic brain injury) can have short- and long-term effects. While athletes receive most of the media attention devoted to TBI, head injuries are not uncommon in lines of work that generate far fewer headlines, such as the military, construction and transportation.

Falls are a common source of TBI

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that more than 50,000 people die each year from injuries that include TBI. The federal agency says that falls are the most common cause of head injuries, accounting for about half of all TBI-related emergency room visits.

As frequent readers of our Manalapan legal blog know, falls are also one of the most causes of on-the-job injuries in the construction industry.

The CDC says injuries sustained in incidents in which a person is struck by or against an object are the second leading cause of ER visits involving TBI injuries. Once again, these kinds of injuries are common in construction.

Workers at risk of TBI

Of course, head injuries are not uncommon in motor vehicle crashes that can happen to truckers, bus drivers, Uber drivers, cabbies and others whose jobs include driving duties.

A new study of the long-term effects of mild brain injuries was led by researchers with the Brain Aging and Behavior Section of the NIA Intramural Research Program (IRP). They tracked MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and PET (positron emission tomography) scan data from adults who had a concussion about 20 years earlier and then compared the results to adults with no concussions to see if changes in cognitive performance could be detected over time.

Looking for long-term damage

Researchers found that those who had suffered a concussion about two decades earlier had noticeable levels of damage in their frontal lobes (important in processing emotions and making decisions)  and temporal lobes (important in learning, understanding language and remembering verbal information).

The damage included brain tissue loss or atrophy in the temporal lobes.

Researchers said, however, that “there were no significant differences” in cognitive abilities over time between those who had suffered concussions and those who had not. They theorize that this might be evidence that our brains adapt to damage and compensate in order to maintain cognitive performance, but noted that further research is needed.

They urge those who have been previously concussed to be alert to cognitive changes, because the areas of the brain damaged are vulnerable to changes connected to Alzheimer’s disease and related issues.

Take work-related injuries seriously

The bottom line for those who have sustained an on-the-job concussion or more serious TBI: do not delay in getting medical attention. Even a mild brain injury can cause long-term damage to this crucial, complex organ, as this latest research shows.

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