Brain Awareness Week is an annual international campaign to increase public awareness of brain research and brain-related topics. Taking place this year from 13 – 19 March, thousands of organisations, schools, universities, hospitals, and private companies across the globe will share information and take part in events to raise awareness.

At NRC Medical Experts, we believe that understanding the science surrounding brain injury can lead to better treatment and improved quality of life. That’s why we’re committed to spreading knowledge about neurorehabilitation for acquired brain injury and traumatic brain injury.

1m people are living with brain injury in the UK

Headway’s 2019-20 data reveals a disheartening reality: every 90 seconds, someone is admitted to hospital in the UK due to brain injury; every three minutes, another person sustains head damage; and every four minutes sees an individual suffer a stroke.

At least one million people in the United Kingdom are enduring life-changing brain injuries, with an average of 977 admissions to hospitals for Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) every day throughout 2019-2020.

Although men are statistically more prone to brain injuries than women, female hospital admittance rates have seen a marked increase of 28% since 2005-06. In 2019-20 particularly, males were 1.5x more likely than their female counterparts to be admitted for head injury treatment.

In the UK, 60% of adult offenders have had some kind of traumatic brain injury – this figure is six times higher than that observed in the general population.

Road traffic collisions are the main cause of brain injury in the UK

Traumatic brain injuries are the number one source of death and disability among individuals aged under 40 years old in the UK.

Road traffic collisions are the leading cause of traumatic brain injury, accounting for half of all cases; this includes vehicles such as cars, buses, motorcycles and bicyclists. Falls, slips and trips account for 21%, while 12% stem from physical assaults – including domestic violence in public spaces. Around 10% originate from high-impact sports like football and rugby as well extreme activities like skiing or snowboarding.

Brain injury costs £15bn every year in the UK

Traumatic Brain Injury and offending: an economic analysis found that the economic cost of head injuries is £15 billion a year. This makes it the third most costly health problem in the UK after cancer and stroke.

Brain injuries affect people in different ways

A brain injury can affect nearly every aspect of a person’s cognitive, perceptual, emotional, behavioural and physical function. It can alter the ability of the person to see, speak, taste, swallow, smell, move, touch, express ideas, plan and execute tasks, and may also lead to aggression, psychosis, impatience, irritability and anxiety.

Brain damage can also cause difficulty in making decisions, understanding others and processing information. Physical symptoms include headache, seizures, paralysis, disturbance in sleep patterns and loss of consciousness. Even people who have no physical impairment may be profoundly affected cognitively, unable to live an independent life or maintain personal relationships.

Every brain injury is unique in the way it affects and presents in a person, so brain injury rehabilitation must be tailored to the individual in a way that their needs are fully met and is personal to their lifestyle and goals.

Different brain injuries require a different neurorehabilitation approach

An acquired brain injury (ABI) is an injury that occurred at or since birth. A traumatic brain injury occurs following a blow to the head.

Brain injuries are classed as mild, moderate or severe. Mild injuries often require rest and time for complete recovery – a good example is concussion, which is also the most common brain injury. It is caused by a blow to the head, which causes the brain to move rapidly inside the skull and can cause chemical changes in the brain. Symptoms include confusion, dizziness, headaches, nausea, fatigue, sensitivity to noise and light, memory problems and difficulty concentrating.

Moderate injuries may require physical, occupational and speech therapy, while severe injuries leading to complex needs will require intense rehabilitation to help the patient regain independence.

The road to recovery after a brain injury can be gruelling, but with dedication and effort, every individual affected can experience progress. Each person is unique and so rehabilitation programs should be personal.

Brain injury rehabilitation is a team effort

Interdisciplinary rehabilitation teams usually consist of specialists such as consultants in neurorehabilitation, neuropsychologists, neuropsychiatrists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and speech and language therapists.

The team works to evaluate the patient’s physical, cognitive and social abilities and develop treatment plans for them. This type of rehabilitation is aimed at helping brain injury survivors relearn skills that have been impacted by the injury, such as speech, physical movement, memory and other cognitive functions.

Brain injury rehabilitation can take place in many settings depending on the severity of the injury. These settings may include inpatient brain injury rehabilitation services, outpatient clinics, day centres and community therapies. Depending on the individual’s needs, a combination of these services can be used.

Brain injury rehabilitation may begin while the patient is still in the hospital

Therapists will work with individuals whilst in hospital to help develop cognitive skills such as problem-solving, communication, concentration, memory and reasoning. Many patients begin with physical therapy focusing on mobility, balance and coordination. Speech therapists work with individuals to improve communication skills through verbal responses and body language. Occupational therapists assist patients in relearning daily living activities such as bathing, dressing, cleaning and cooking.

Following a brain injury, some people require further support in specialist neurorehabilitation services before returning home.

Brain injury rehabilitation is about quality of life and independence

The goal of brain injury rehabilitation is to help patients regain function and improve overall quality of life. Working with the interdisciplinary team, individuals develop goals to work towards, which can include learning to walk again, improving speech, or relearning the skills to carry out activities of daily living such as cooking a meal.

While it’s important to work on physical and mental rehabilitation, the process also includes building confidence, improving self-esteem, helping with decision-making, problem solving and communication. All of these things can help brain injury survivors lead independent lives.

Rehabilitation takes time

Brain injury rehabilitation can take months or even years, depending on the severity of the injury and how long it takes for the patient to regain their abilities.

ABI and TBI can be traumatic for those affected and their families. But with the right combination of therapies, education and support from loved ones, the rehabilitation process can be a successful one. It’s important to stay positive, work hard and seek out professional help if necessary. With dedication and determination, those affected can make progress in their recovery journey.

Legal and expert medical support can help

Brain injury survivors may have a legal case if their injury was due to the negligence of another person or entity. Negligence can include failure to provide proper safety procedures, not providing adequate medical care, or failing to take reasonable steps that could have prevented an injury. If the brain injured person can prove that the negligence played a role in the injury, they may be able to pursue a legal claim for compensation. This can help cover the costs of specialist in-patient neurorehabilitation, lost earnings due to time off work and other losses. It is important to seek legal advice from an experienced solicitor who understands catastrophic injuries and their effects on individuals and families.

An expert witness specialising in neurorehabilitation and brain injury provides invaluable support to legal teams. They are able to offer detailed evidence about the type, extent and cause of an individual’s injury, as well as their prognosis for recovery. An expert witness will also be able to testify on the likely impacts that the injury will have on the individual’s quality of life, including their ability to work and care for themselves. This testimony can be essential in helping to secure a successful outcome in legal proceedings.

Next steps

Find out more about Brain Awareness Week on their website and by using the hashtags #BrainWeek and #BrainAwarenessWeek on social media.

Find a medical expert specialising in brain injury rehabilitation