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For High School Athletes and Combat Veterans, Brain Injury Can Have Lasting Impacts

Written by Berkowitz

brain injury

A new research study done by the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center’s O’Donnell Brain Institute discovered shocking news. Hopefully, this news will be enough to incite change in how high school football and even combat veterans are treated when it comes to head injuries.

All too often, combat veterans come home from overseas to find themselves being accused of psychological disorders or written off as a lost cause, when in reality, they suffer extreme head trauma that causes them to have altered perceptions, have personality changes, and suffer from emotional disorders. One patient of the research center, a veteran injured in a blast, stated how he had difficulty interacting, thought he was going crazy, and tried to commit suicide twice before being diagnosed properly.

In another interview, a former Army veteran back from Bosnia suffered from PTSD and brain trauma and has a completely different personality now than he did before he deployed. He talked about how he yelled at his wife and kids and had no emotional control. He mentioned how he planned to become a pediatrician after serving as a medic in the war. But after his injury, he could no longer handle the pressure and demands of school; therefore, his entire career and dreams were put on hold.

The Role Doctors, Nurses, and Caregivers Have in Helping TBI Victims Recover

A person might never fully recover from their TBI, but the more support they have during the recovery and while coping with the changes, the better the outcome might be.

Those with brain injuries might just nod to their doctors’ instructions, but they do not have the same processing. Therefore, researchers highly recommend that they bring along caregivers or loved ones to these appointments so that they have someone there to process the information, relay it, and ensure they understand it.

Loved ones are advocates – and valuable ones at that. They make sure nothing slips through the cracks. Also, patients with TBIs can be advocates, too, by telling care professionals about their injuries so that they are better equipped to handle them. Doctors who have experience working with patients with TBIs also may be a better choice for healthcare, because they understand the emotional and mental turmoil of a TBI.

Understanding the Issues of Concussions and Caring for Those Recovering

Recovery is key after brain trauma.

Concussions happen any time the brain is shaken severely. It can occur in accidents where the brain is shaken against a helmet or a strike on the football field. The shock-wave that travels through the brain and skull is enough to cause damage – how severe and permanent that damage is might not be apparent right away.

There is no blood test that tells physicians a concussion happened, and only more severe trauma shows up on scans. Minor concussions may not appear on CT or MRI scans.

However, parents and caregivers are encouraged to take a loved one to the emergency room if they suspect any form of head trauma – to be safe. Athletes especially need to be removed from the field and sent to the hospital for an assessment.

Also, they need to remain off the field until they have recovered fully, which might be weeks after the event. Athletes returning to play while still recovering from a concussion increase the risks of serious brain injury and emotional and psychological complications.

The brain has extensive metabolic demands while healing from any type of brain trauma. Therefore, the most important recovery method is rest. The brain cannot be stressed, cannot be overwhelmed, and it needs to remain out of physical activities until fully healed.

How Does a Person “Rest” a Brain?

Your brain is working continuously. While you sit reading this blog, you are utilizing your eyes, mind, and possibly emotions. Your brain is working to keep your body functioning, your heart beating, your oxygen flowing. Therefore, you might think it is impossible to rest your brain. If you have family or other obligations, you cannot sleep all day – nor should you. However, physicians do recommend getting more sleep than usual to help keep your brain working at a minimal demand.

Brain rest, however, means that you should refrain from mentally taxing activities. No, you do not need to sit in a dark room and ignore the world. Instead, it would help if you avoided those activities that involve a high rate of mental processing.

Giving your brain the adequate rest period can ensure it recovers fully and faster, too. The less stress you put on your ailed brain, the more likely you are to recover quickly.

Some ways to help yourself or a concussed patient rest their brain include:

  • Focusing on a single task. Life moves forward, and obviously you cannot sit around doing nothing all day. If you must do something, do only a single task at a time. Multitasking is mentally stimulating and can easily stress an already worn brain.
  • Take time off from homework, housework, and work. Work responsibilities, homework, and even housework are all too taxing for a concussed brain. Anything requiring physical activity, critical thinking, or memorization are going to stress you further. Therefore, avoid these during your brain rest period.
  • Do not drive a car. Anyone with a concussion, who is on brain rest, should not drive. Not only does this reduce the risk of an accident if further complications arise, but also an injured brain cannot handle the auditory, mental, and cognitive processes of driving.
  • Do not make any big life decisions. Life decisions require a lot from your brain. You can put off those personal, financial, and even professional decisions until brain rest is over.
  • Do not use screens or other stimuli. Music, books on tape, reading a book, video games, televisions, and even texting should all be avoided. These are highly demanding on your brain and could hinder recovery.

Factors That Slow Recovery

Numerous factors, including physicality and life choices, slow a person’s concussion recovery. Some common reasons patients might not recover as quickly from a concussion include:

Inability to Get Adequate Brain Rest

If you ignore your physician’s instructions for brain rest or a football coach does not give you the opportunity for brain rest, it will increase recovery time. If you were to go back onto the field and take another hit, you could cause further (if not permanent) damage.

Inability to Get Physical Rest

While you will not require physical rest the entire time you are on brain rest, it is still important to limit physical activity during those first few critical days or weeks. Athletes with longer recovery times in professional football have gradual returns to the game now. This includes slowly easing into physical activity, rehabilitation, and then moving back toward practices before ever going onto the field for a game.

In the recreational and high school sector, players are not given the same luxury. In military settings, combat veterans might not have the opportunity to recover or even leave their post for recovery. They may worry that they will be dishonorably discharged, especially if medical professionals did not diagnose them properly with a TBI.


Age affects recovery. Children and teens, with brains in development, need more time to recover than a fully developed brain. While it is true a child can recover from the common cold faster than an adult, brain injuries are not the same. An elderly adult also needs more time to heal.


Research shows that girls take longer to recover from a concussion than boys.

Pre-Existing Mental or Physical Conditions

Concussions can take longer to heal in those who have previous or repeated concussion episodes, headache or migraine disorders, sleep disorders, depression and anxiety, learning disabilities, and seizure disorders.

Know the Risks – What Happens If You Do Not Get Enough Brain Rest Time?

While a brain recovery rest phase might seem like an inconvenience, it serves a purpose. The brain is delicate, and you are at increased risk for severe brain injury if you continue to work, play sports, or do physical activities after suffering a concussion. A second concussion would take less force and requires a longer recovery period, too.

Some risks to not getting adequate rest or waiting for a full recovery before going back to work, military deployments, or the football field include:

  • Higher risk of more concussions. As stated before, an injured brain is easily susceptible to more injuries. Concussion patients participating in contact activities with an already injured brain will suffer from a second concussion with a weaker impact.
  • Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). CTE is still being studied, but it is a degenerative brain disease that affects veterans and athletes with repeated head trauma – such as multiple concussions. Unfortunately, once this disease starts, there is no stopping it. It can lead to premature death, extreme changes in personality and mood, and it is only diagnosed during an autopsy.
  • Post-concussion syndrome. A brain with a present concussion that becomes injured again will encounter post-concussion syndrome. This syndrome is accompanied by various symptoms, including neck pain, dizziness, headaches, anxiety, irritability, nausea, insomnia, fatigue, loss of concentration, memory issues, and sensitivity to light and sound.
  • Second impact syndrome. Second impact syndrome is impossible to predict but often occurs with secondary concussions. This is more severe than post-concussion syndrome and can lead to cerebral swelling, brain herniation, and death.

Finding Legal Advice after Brain Trauma

If you are a veteran, athlete, or parent of an athlete who suffered brain trauma, you may be entitled to compensation. Repeated head trauma can lead to long-term cognitive issues and possibly CTE. Coaches and military personnel, who force concussion victims to continue with brain trauma present, put them only further at risk.

To see if you have a case for compensation, you need a law firm with experience handling brain trauma cases. Contact Berkowitz Hanna today to schedule a no-obligation case evaluation. Contact us online to get started.