Simply stated, brain injuries are not well understood. While sports-related concussions and brain injuries have increased the public’s awareness of this issue, there is still a lot to be learned related to diagnosis and treatment. A few facts about brain injuries are noted below:
- At least 10 million traumatic brain injuries (TBI’s) serious enough to result in death or hospitalization occur annually
- In the United States alone, 1.1 million emergency room visits occur from TBI’s, 235,000 people are admitted to the hospital, and 50,000 deaths occur (This does not account for TBI’s treated in outpatient settings, military facilities, or those which remain undiagnosed)
- Often times, brain injuries or concussions from a motor vehicle accident or injury are never formally diagnosed
- A significant number of patients with brain injuries have residual physical, cognitive, and emotional symptoms for the first three months
- Some patients with brain injuries have symptoms, which last for years or a lifetime
What Does a Neuropsychologist Do?
A Neuropsychologist is a PhD level psychologist with specialized training in brain function, human behavior, and testing to provide valuable feedback for individuals with impaired brain function. The Neuropsychologist diagnoses residual issues from brain injuries.
How can a neuropsychologist help?
- By documenting deficits to establish impairments
- Assess the relationship between the anatomy of the human brain and an individual’s behavior
- Use the information obtained during testing to serve as a baseline for observation and treatment
- Testing to clarify and organize clinical observations made by physicians, families, or other providers
Many people believe an individual must experience a loss of consciousness in order to be diagnosed with a mild traumatic brain injury. It should be noted, a mild TBI or concussion may alter a person’s level of consciousness or awareness for a short period of time; however, a loss of consciousness may never occur.
Symptoms of a TBI may include:
- word finding issues
- slowness in processing or understanding information
- mild memory problems
- difficulty with concentration, focus, or attention
- visual problems
- fine motor problems or tremors
- mood changes
- alterations in sleep patterns
Any individual who sustains a brain injury while playing sports, during an altercation, or as a result of a fall or motor vehicle accident should be monitored closely. Persistent symptoms, of the type noted above, should always be closely monitored and evaluated by a physician.
Do not be afraid to request an evaluation by a neuropsychologist for symptoms of this type. While some symptoms resolve on their own in time, treatment may help to accelerate recovery, help individuals to modify behavior to adapt to changes in brain function, help them to return to their prior status if at all possible. If you have a case manager, they can assist you in locating a qualified professional.