The recent NCAA announcement of the $70 million settlement of their class action lawsuit on brain injury is a small step in the right direction in the battle for recognition of Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) as a chronic lifelong condition versus the current medical and insurance perspective. What is most troubling is that in spite of the NCAA joining the NFL and Department of Defense (DoD) in creating brain injury awareness campaigns, there seems to be a lack of responsiveness to TBI awareness by insurance and managed-care companies. If you look at the current studies, the more prominent ones involve partnerships between the NFL and GE or the recently announced $30 Million study co-sponsored by US Department of Defense and the NCAA.
The first study is creating much needed focus on the long-term impacts of mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBI) titled the “Head Health Challenge”, it is part of a four year, $60 million collaboration between GE and the NFL to expedite the diagnosis process and improve treatment for mild traumatic brain injury. The second study between the NCAA and DoD is a $30 Million effort, centered on an estimated 37,000 male and female NCAA student-athletes over the three year study period. Participants will receive a comprehensive pre-season evaluation for concussion and will be monitored in the event of an injury. The investigation will be the largest ever of its type, offering critical insight to the risks, treatment and management of concussion. Announced in May 2014, one wonders if this is going to be separate from the $70 Million settlement.
What is emerging as another stride in the battle for TBI awareness is the power of the parents and individual’s family. What society is finally recognizing is that the insurance services that absorb much of their earnings become less supportive of the brain injured patient’s needs, the further away the patient gets from the acute care period of their injury. The most powerful statement to the story behind the $70 Million NCAA TBI Settlement for me was the courage of George Roach to recognize his son (Adrian Arrington, the athlete behind the settlement) had endured too many sports related concussions and actually got in the coach’s face to prevent further damage to his son’s brain. As quoted by Lao-tzu the famous Chinese philosopher, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” It appears the acceptance by insurance companies of brain injuries as a chronic disease is still a thousand miles away. Maybe if more people follow George Roach’s example in defense of those left defenseless by their brain injuries, the burdens of lifelong support of brain injury patients will become more fairly balanced.