Mild Brain Injury is a misleading concept which remains a subject of concern for brain injury researchers and clinicians. A study from the University of Glasgow and the University of Edinburgh has looked at mortality and morbidity 15 years after hospital admission for individuals who sustained a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI). The study developed by Dr. Tom McMillan and his colleagues involved 2,428 adults with mild brain injury and an equal number of community controls who were matched for age, gender and social factors. An additional control group of individuals admitted for other diagnoses with matched hospital stay duration was included. Control group members excluded people with a history of brain injury prior to entry into the study.
The study revealed that individuals with mTBI had a higher mortality rate than the control and other injury groups. Individuals injured at an early age (15-54) had a 4.2 greater risk of death than the control group. Adults injured over the age of 54 experienced a risk of death which was 1.4 times higher than the control group. Repeated brain injury was also identified as a risk factor. Lifestyle factors are known to contribute to higher mortality rates after mild brain injury. The connection with chronic neuropathology remains unclear.
This study further supports that there is nothing “mild about mild brain injury”. The term is misleading as it implies a problem of short-term duration with limited lingering consequences. Certainly, the NFL retired players with CTE from multiple concussions has helped us to better understand the serious long-term consequences. Now, we need to pay better attention to the person with a mild brain injury in the years after the injury. Are we seeing the consequences of mild brain injury in people with mental health and/or substance abuse problems in the years post-injury? Are we recognizing the potential link of their brain injury history to these problems?