March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. The human brain is an area that continues to befuddle medical experts. Although scientists are still learning about the brain, a recent New York Times article and medical study has spotlighted traumatic brain injuries ("TBIs") and concussions.
In “Derek Boogaard: A Brain ‘Going Bad,'” New York Times author John Branch chronicled an examination of the brain of a former NHL tough guy who died at age 28 directly from drug and alcohol abuse. Boogaard had been diagnosed with a brain injury known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (“C.T.E.”), a condition similar to Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers examined Boogaard's medical history and brain and made some interesting observations. Shortly after the article came out, three former NFL players brought a legal action against the league for their brain injuries. That suit is pending in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York.
Earlier this month, a new study by a neuropsychologist at Ohio State University’s Center for BioBehavioral Health, concluded that children “with even relatively mild concussions can have persistent attention and memory problems a year after their injuries.” Outside of sports, this certainly supports what I have seen in my R.I. car accident legal practice.
Some brain injuries are referred to as “invisible injuries.” They are not readily apparent to us. As a R.I. car accident lawyer, I vividly remember my first experience with a brain-injured person. Paul was a giant man, third generation iron worker. This was a man’s man. Rhode Island personal injury lawyers usually take some basic information about prospective clients and so I knew that Paul had suffered a significant brain injury. But you would not know it from speaking to him right away. The effects were only noticeable subtly, after spending time with him. Even after the initial trauma has healed, there can be devastating lifelong secondary effects. As one of Boogard’s teammates noted, brain injuries result in real adverse change. “His demeanor, his personality, it just left him,” John Scott, a teammate, said. “He didn’t have a personality anymore. He just was kind of — a blank face.”
I'm a member of the Brain Injury Association of R.I. If anyone ever needs help or has questions about a brain injury, I recommend contacting their office. They are centrally located in Cranston and have a wonderful library and support system.