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Surviving Traumatic Brain Injury

Tallahassee, Florida recently hosted a gathering of caregivers, survivors, medical researchers and the Florida Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) community to share, support and inspire others. The Brain Injury Association of Florida and the Florida Department of Health sponsored the event at the State Capitol.

"Brain injuries affect people of all ages and all walks of life" said Valerie Breen, Executive Director of Brain Injury Association of Florida. "There are 210,000 people in Florida living with a brain injury. The consequences for those who survive and their journey to thrive is our story today. Access to health care, rehabilitation and life-long support is key to survivors and their families."

Buzz Bissinger was among the event panelists and featured guests. He is the award-winning journalist and author of "Friday Night Lights", a story of high school football in a small town. Bissinger is one of the first to bring focus on high school sports injuries and head trauma, concussion in particular. He reminds parents and coaches that they must help the athletes recognize the signs and symptoms of concussions and to make it acceptable to sit out a game or two to recover. In my years of representing people with TBI, it is the same for victims regardless of the cause of their injury.

Motor vehicle accidents, boating accidents, slips and falls on hard surfaces, and brain injuries resulting from medical malpractice end in frustration not only for the injured but also for their families and friends. Typically, they note changes in mildly injured victims manifested by irritability, inability to focus, word finding difficulties, and short term memory loss (see new research information below) among other symptoms. More profound injuries, of course, can result in complete cognitive and motor disability.

The Tallahassee event focused not only on those living with Traumatic Brain Injury but also prevention of TBI. Others in attendance included Ana M. Viamonte Ros, Surgeon General of the State of Florida; Frank Toral, Director, Brain Injury Association of Florida; Valerie Breen, Executive Director, Brain Injury Association of Florida; Jacob W. VanLandingham, Ph,D., Assistant Professor in Biomedical Sciences, FSU College of Medicine as well as 9/11 and TBI survivor, Chee-Chee Parker and Lester Rice, TBI survivor/caregiver, activist.

In my Panama City, Florida personal injury law practice, I have seen a spate of head injuries caused by motorcycle accidents in which drivers of big trucks, like eighteen wheelers, have been the culprit. The pattern that has emerged is that the truckers fail to see the relatively small motorcycle and pull out in front of the bikers too late for them to avoid an accident. As one might imagine, serious brain injury and spinal cord injuries commonly occur in this mix of vehicles.

As mentioned above, new research sheds light on memory difficulties associated with head injury and is to be published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Researchers Glascher and Adolphs found that general intelligence is determined by a network of regions across both sides of the brain as opposed to a single structure or area within the brain. Obviously, then, brain injury, which can affect many areas of the brain simultaneously, can wreak havoc with cognitive function.

It was determined, according to Adolphs that, "[T]he particular regions and connections we found are quite in line with an existing theory about intelligence called the 'parieto-frontal integration theory.' It says that general intelligence depends on the brain's ability to integrate - to pull together - several different kinds of processing, such as working memory."


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