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Ongoing Effects of Traumatic Brain Injury on Children and Adults

March 9, 2017

A traumatic brain injury can occur in many different kinds of accidents, including auto accidents, bicycle accidents, workplace accidents, playground and sports accidents, and more. They can range from the very mild, such as concussions, to the very severe, as in cases where the head is struck hard or penetrated by an object. Even the mildest of traumatic brain injuries can lead to ongoing damage in children and adults. Children are more likely to wind up with a diagnosis of ADHD or to have other issues with their attention after a TBI. Adults with a TBI are more at risk of developing Parkinson’s Disease. It is important to be aware of these ongoing effects when you pursue a personal injury claim after a traumatic brain injury, as these should factor into your settlement in terms of future disability and medical care.

The Ongoing Effects of TBI in Children

In 2015, the Pediatrics journal published the results of a study concerning traumatic brain injuries in children and the potential for developing attention problems, including ADHD. They found that there was an increased likelihood of children experiencing these problems in the future if they suffered from even a mild TBI. The effects are not always seen right away, but are more likely to arise even years after the incident than if the TBI had not occurred.

This study involved 113 children, six to thirteen years old, with traumatic brain injuries and a comparison group of 53 children without TBI events. The brain injuries suffered by the children in the TBI group ranged from mild to severe. The study focused on children with mild concussion and children with more severe brain injuries that resulted in vomiting, dizziness, and loss of consciousness for up to half an hour. They evaluated the impact of these injuries by discussing the emotional wellness and mental health of the children with their caregivers and teachers 18 months after the traumatic brain injury incidents.

For some children, the effects were not severe enough to warrant a diagnosis of ADHD, but even those who do not develop this disorder can experience difficulty focusing and slower information processing and response times when interacting with their environments. They were also at greater risk for mood disorders, excessive stress and anxiety, lower IQs, and worse grades and school performance. They were also more at risk of conditions like epilepsy. These same issues were observed in the group of children without TBIs, but to a lesser degree.

The study did not investigate the treatment possibilities for these conditions, though other studies have shown that medication and therapy can be effective in treating symptoms. The researchers associated with the study recommended that caregivers, teachers, and physicians be wary of the potential for long term effects after a TBI and to watch out for even mild symptoms associated with diminished attention span and inability to focus or control moods. They also pointed out that these effects can be seen even when no damage is observable in tests and scans, like MRIs and CAT scans. They further expressed the importance of teaching children how to be safe, use effective protective gear, and minimize their likelihood of experiencing a traumatic brain injury through unsafe activities.

The Ongoing Effects of TBI in Adults

Another study published in 2015 by the UCLA focused on the increased likelihood of adults with traumatic brain injuries to develop Parkinson’s Disease. Adults are most at risk of TBIs when they get into auto accidents, when they play sports, when they work in dangerous conditions, and/or when they fall from a height.

The study found that rats lost a specific type of neuron (nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons) when they suffered from TBIs. They would lose about 15% of these neurons after the injury, and it would progress from there, reaching 30% after a period of twenty-six weeks. These neurons are associated with traumatic brain injuries and Parkinson’s Disease.

The symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease that are created through neuron loss of this sort include shaking and tremors as well as rigidity in limbs. This happens because the neurons are an important part of the composition of the brain, ensuring the appropriate release of neurotransmitters like dopamine. Without enough dopamine, patients can experience mood disorders, including depression, and can also lose their motor function, as in Parkinson’s Disease. While it is not news that TBIs increase the risk of this disease, the study concluded that the initial TBI might not cause a great loss in these neurons, right away, but it did increase the likelihood of further damage and loss of neurons that could cause this disease down the road. They further pointed out that these neurons become more vulnerable to damage after the first TBI, so that any subsequent injury could cause significantly more harm to the patient.

There are other things that can also cause neuron loss, such as exposure to certain pesticides and other chemicals, and these are also associated with the development of Parkinson’s Disease. These variables were noted by the researchers, but were excluded from this study.

Contact the Connell Law Firm After a Traumatic Brain Injury

If you, your child, or another loved one has suffered from a traumatic brain injury, you need to be aware of their increased risks for developing these conditions, long term. You should be on the lookout for any symptoms of impaired focus and attention, mood disorders, and loss of motor function. The sooner you seek treatment for these symptoms, the better your prognosis is likely to be. You should also be wary of anything that might cause further damage, keeping in mind that the neurons which are damaged by a brain injury are at increased risk from another.

Finally, if your injury was caused by someone else or if another party may be liable for compensating that injury because it resulted from their negligence or occurred on their property (or at school), contact the dedicated South Carolina personal injury lawyers at the Connell Law Firm to schedule a free consultation. We’ll evaluate your case, including the potential for long term effects, establish liability, and calculate the value of the compensation that may be owed to you. We’re happy to answer all of your questions about traumatic brain injuries in adults and children and your legal rights. Call today.