There’s Nothing Mild About Mild Brain Injury


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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?

Click here to read a summary of the study written by Bruce H. Stern in the National Law Review, June 25, 2015.

About Rolf Gainer Ph.D.

Dr. Rolf Gainer is the founder of the Neurologic Rehabilitation Institute at Brookhaven Hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma as well as the Neurological Rehabilitation Institute of Ontario, in Toronto, Canada. Dr. Gainer is a psychologist with more than twenty-five years of experience in the treatment and rehabilitation of individuals with brain injuries and a dual diagnosis. Dr. Gainer has designed and operated innovative rehabilitation programs in the United States and Canada for individuals who have been regarded as difficult to serve. He is currently involved in conducting two outcome studies related to the long-term issues faced by individuals with brain injuries and a dual diagnosis. He has presented papers throughout the United States and Canada in many professional conferences and educational forums.

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10 Responses to There’s Nothing Mild About Mild Brain Injury

  1. Jeffery June 26, 2015 at 7:32 am #

    Having suffered my first concussion at 7 yrs old and several in the yrs following, I am almost certain my mental health problems and cognitive disorder are the result. My current meds do not help enough to lead a normal life, and physical damages my body has suffered because of work habits and poor judgement have also taken a toll. I am currently disabled with cognitive impairment and lower spinal injuries. I am hopeful that my back pain can be relieved and psychiatric meds adjusted to where I may be able to feel useful again one day. If not for my loving wife, I would surely be another statistic due to depressions and poorly handled crisis over the years.
    My greatest setback in recovery has been that Drs didn’t read the reports of other Drs or listen to information I tried to give in varied states of mind,
    whether in panic, confusion, anxiety or depression. It’s been my experience that they simply wanted to offer their snap diagnosis, or offer false comfort in a medicine that was their newest and least tried and true, just to get me out of their office. I am grateful to the few Drs that have truly tried to help.

    • Heather Hensley July 27, 2015 at 1:56 pm #

      I’m glad that you found Drs who were able to help you. It’s been almost 2 months since I sustained my concussion & I still feel as uncertain as ever. No one seems to be able to say when the symptoms will go away just time if they do. None of the meds prescribed thus far have helped. Still looking for answers.

      • Michelle Shuker July 27, 2015 at 4:42 pm #

        Heather i had my first concussion in 99 and my second 18 months ago. I promise as time goes on you will begin to feel less uncertain. Read up on treatments to allow your brain to rest and heal. After my first tbi i didn’t work for a year. But almost 13 years later i was functioning extremely well with very few notable symptoms. No one knows what the next 13 years will bring for me but if i am hopeful (and i am)you should be too
        Hang in there. It does get better with time.

    • Debra July 27, 2015 at 7:10 pm #

      Please know that your symptoms are due to a PHYSICAL problem. I think calling things “mental health issues’ causes the biggest problems…as even doctors treat people different with such a label. THEY should know better.
      I too suffered concussions as a child and have spinal issues. I agree with your post wholeheartedly.
      I wont take meds,as the side effects made my symptoms worse…. I drink decaf, eat right most of the time. I eliminated most processed food and sweets and eat more fruit instead.
      All of these things helped me to improve.
      I had a heat stroke last summer which caused new and worsening symptoms…. so I knid of had a relapse- but knowing I have made it this far gives me strength to do what I need to in order to continue life.
      I pray the same for you friend.

  2. Kevin Middleton June 26, 2015 at 7:47 am #

    I could have saved you the cost of a study. I’ve lived with an AVM and surgery since 1977. There are always residual side affects that manifest over time. Mild and Moderate brain injuries should be struck from the terminology list. Any force sufficient to break a bone in the head or face, any force sufficient to cause concussion or whiplash should be listed as brain trauma and treated as such. The habit for hospitals is to list the chief complaint and that often diverts all from the true nature of the potential of a brain injury.
    For example, one breaks a jaw, the prognosis is simply that, a jaw fracture or mandible fracture. No mention that such a force might have damaged the soft tissue in the scull better known as the brain.
    Hopefully your study group also mentions that classification of injury may assist in better diagnostics.
    Thanks
    Kevin Middleton…. Survivor….

  3. Kathi Bass June 26, 2015 at 11:19 am #

    I never understood how they came up with mild TRAUMATIC Brain Injury. Any TRAUMA that causes brain dysfunction/damage is TRAUMATIC! Mild = little or no loss of consciousness. Why not describe it as that. The emphasis should be on the damage caused by trauma, not the word “mild”. Many doctors see the injury as “mild” in nature of the incident, so no damage. They think if you can talk intelligently, you are hyper vigilant. My intelligence wasn’t damaged, but the way I process it has been. My injuries were in 1994 and 1997. We have come a long way in the Brain Injury Research since then. Now we need to continue spreading awareness and educate others.

  4. Matthew Moore June 26, 2015 at 2:12 pm #

    I still can’t see where they label something like this as mild, the rating scale is garbage, they label me as mild, but the had to put me in a Coma to save my life and I lost vision in my right eye, I survived something they didn’t have much hope that I would survive, they told my Mom they didn’t think I would survive the night, and that I would likely need full-time adult care, I was an anomoly I was able to go home and live on my own alone, I had and still get lots of help, but I can’t get SSDI yet, they claim I can no longer do my old job due to the physical nature of it, but that at 38 with brain damage and one eye and physical damage that I can just go out and get a new job with no experience. It’s an insult, they have no clue what it is like in my head.

  5. George Visger June 29, 2015 at 12:03 pm #

    After surviving 9 NFL caused emergency VP Shunt brain surgeries since I developed hydrocephalus from concussions during the 81 Super Bowl season with the SF 49ers, I’ve always taken the term “mild” as a slap in the face, especially when hearing it from the medical whores the NFL labled their Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Group for years.

    I have asked several of their experts if it’s only a “mild” injury, why not let ol beat up me throw a little forearm shiver to your jaw.

    There is NOTHING mild about an injury to the most important organ in your body.

    So called experts have no clue as to hiw the ripple effect of our TBIs destroys our careers, shreds our families and impacts every second of our lives frim that moment on.

    THAT is why we formed The Visger Group, to educate experts and empower survivors and their families.

    George Visger
    Wildlife Biologist/TBI Consultant
    Survivor of 9 NFL Brain Surgeries
    Benefactor of ZERO NFL Benefits

    The Visger Group TBI Consulting

    • Heather Hensley July 27, 2015 at 2:01 pm #

      Thank you for this post. I grew up loving football (bay area native) & now after sustaining a concussion myself I don’t know how I ever thought this was ok to endanger another humans head. My prayers to all former football players.

  6. Rolf Gainer July 28, 2015 at 5:38 am #

    My thanks to each person who left a response to this blog “There’s Nothing Mild About Mild Brain Injury”. I appreciate the personal responses of people who experienced a “mild” Brain Injury. Their stories further support that the categorization of these injuries as “mild” truly speaks to the seriousness of the effects of these injuries on their lives. These injuries are not “mild” by any stretch of the imagination.

    Rolf B. Gainer, PhD

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