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About Brain Injury

Composed of soft tissue and weighing about 3 pounds, the human brain can store more information than any library in the world, and can sort, organize and retrieve it far faster than any man-made machine. It is responsible for the way we act, the way we think, our ideals, our impulses, and the regulation of many of our basic bodily functions.

The Injury

There are many ways to classify head injury. One basic distinction is between injuries which are the result of a violent concussion – typically, the car or motorcycle accident, the victim of crime, sports injuries and falls, versus injuries from non-violent causes, the most common of which is a stroke. Another distinction exists between those injuries caused by a penetration of the skull, and those in which there has been no open wound. Like any other injury, a head injury may be mild, moderate or severe, but unlike other injuries, even comparatively moderate head injuries can present confounding changes for the person.

The Immediate Effects of the Injury

Just as every person in unique and different, every head injury is as unique and different. The impairments resulting from a head injury vary greatly from victim to victim. A typical head injury will result in numerous impairments, such as one (and usually several) of the following:
Physical Impairments, such as loss of muscular control -- including paralysis, speech, vision and hearing deficits, susceptibility to seizures.

Cognitive Impairments, such as loss of concentration, short and/or long-term memory loss, poor judgement, lack of perception and loss of communication skills.

Behavioural Impairments, such as anxiety, depression, moodiness, inappropriate/excessive/violent conduct, sexual disinhibition, loss of motivation.

The Indirect Effects of the Injury

The immediate effects of the injury soon create a number of related problems, such as loss of income, the loss of friends, the loss of intimacy and the loss of freedom. The cumulative effect of the immediate and indirect effects of head injury are usually devastating, not just for the victim, but also for his or her family.

Dealing with Head Injury

After medical stabilization (often after emergency healthcare in a modern hospital trauma unit and ICU), the outcome of a head injury will be affected by many variables, such as the nature, extent and location of the injury to the brain, pre-injury attributes of the individual involved, the quality of assessment, and the availability of support systems.

The uniqueness of every individual and every head injury mandates intensive individual analysis, usually on an on-going basis. The process is by necessity, extremely labour intensive, and unfortunately, costly.

Life-Long Effects of the Injury

Except for some mild injuries, full recovery to pre-injury status and ability is usually not feasible; the effects are life-long and the need for support is also life-long. Even those who successfully re-integrate into the community after intensive support for periods of 2 to 3 years have demonstrated the requirement for support intervention from time to time to avoid conditions such as depression, or for assistance to cope with difficult changes such as death, loss of a job, or other like crisis to which they remain much more vulnerable than they would have been prior to the injury.

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