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President Trump’s Statements About Brain Injuries Are Misguided

by | Jan 28, 2020

Brain injuries are notorious for their unpredictable and far-reaching repercussions, and they have the potential to result in physical and / or emotional effects that can be very serious, permanent, and life altering.

While research and high-profile cases have helped the public better understand brain injuries and their potential for creating significant setbacks in the lives of victims and families, it is an unfortunate fact that many fail to grasp just how serious they can be. That’s a problem which prevents many victims from seeking the help they need – and one that’s often perpetuated by myths and misguided statements.

Just recently, the current U.S. Administration held a conference at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where attendees questioned President Donald Trump on a variety of issues – including why initial claims said no Americans had been harmed in retaliatory strikes against a U.S. base in Iraq, when reports revealed a number of military personnel were diagnosed with concussions (the Department of Defense later reported 34 U.S. service members suffered traumatic brain injuries from the Iranian airstrikes on the Al Asad Air Base in Iraq).

In response to those questions, President Trump was dismissive of the traumatic brain injuries; concussions suffered by the service members, he said, were not “serious” injuries.

“I don’t consider it very serious relative to other injuries that I’ve seen… No, I do not consider that to be bad injuries.”

According to the New York Times, 17 of the 34 service members with reported traumatic brain injuries were transported by medical evacuation aircraft to Germany. Nine remain in the hospital, while others were flown home. All, contrary to statements made, will likely face unpredictable futures filled with risks for serious symptoms, setbacks, and disabilities.

Brain Injuries Can Have Life-Long Consequences

Unfortunately, misinformation about brain injuries is not uncommon – particularly when it comes to the assumption that concussions and TBIs won’t have long-term consequences or create lasting issues. This misbelief is a major reason why many forego medical treatment after a head injury, and why our sports cultures have long encouraged athletes to believe they can “shake” these injuries off.

In reality, traumatic brain injuries (TBI) can cause serious and lasting harms. Though they cannot be “seen” in the ways visible injuries can – something which makes them arguably more dangerous – they still present very immediate concerns, long-term risks, and the very real possibility of life-altering consequences.

Though brain injuries are shrouded by a level of mystery unpredictability, the science is all too clear when it comes to some common facts:

  1. Concussions are brain injuries, and all brain injuries have the potential for long-term, severe, or life-altering repercussions.
    • Concussions are a form of traumatic brain injury resulting from sudden and forceful movement of the brain within the skull. This stretches and damages delicate brain cells and structures, and causes chemical changes which affect how it functions. This includes changes affecting thinking (reasoning and memory), sensation (balance and sight), language (communication and expression), and emotion.
  2. Even if they are not visible, brain injuries can have lasting consequences and even if brain injuries are classified as “mild,” it does not mean victims are exempt from serious physical, behavioral, and psychological effects.
    • One study from the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) found even “mild” TBI can cause significant brain damage; mTBI victims scored 25% lower in thinking and memory skill tests than people without brain injury.
  3. Chronic head trauma substantially increases risks of progressive and debilitating neurological disorders, and makes a person more likely to suffer another.
    • Repetitive head injury, as illustrated most notably by the NFL concussion lawsuit, can result in life-altering physical, emotional, and neurological changes; including conditions like Parkinson’s, ALS, dementia, and CTE.
  4. Even a single brain injury can cause permanent damage and impairment.
    • Research shows even one concussion can have serious long-term effects. According to an Oxford University study, younger victims with just a single diagnosed concussion were more likely to receive disability as adults, seek mental health treatment, and drop out of high school / not attend college, and were twice as likely as their siblings to die at a younger age.
  5. In addition to debilitating headaches, thinking and memory problems, and other physical or cognitive symptoms, TBI victims face greater risks of mental health issues, including depression and PTSD.
    • Emotional and behavioral symptoms associated with brain injuries have been strongly linked to repetitive head trauma the likes of what former NFL athletes suffered. However, TBI and PTSD have also become “signature wounds” among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

Ultimately, statements made by the President during his conference are not an anomaly; there is still much to learn about the brain and its response to trauma, and much awareness to raise among the public about treating brain injuries – including concussions – as the very serious injuries they are.

Because even our nation’s leaders can made mistakes in proliferating misguided statements, it is important for people, parents, and families to educate themselves about brain injuries, the importance of immediate medical evaluations, and the growing body of research into both long-term effects and treatment. If anything positive is to come of the criticism the Administration has received for these statements, it will hopefully be increased visibility and understanding of traumatic brain injuries.

Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. is a nationally recognized civil trial firm that serves injured victims and families across the DMV region. As designated “Preferred Attorneys” for the DC Metro area by the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA), we have extensive experience with brain injury cases, and are available to speak with anyone who would like more information about personal injury claims and their legal rights. Contact us to speak with an attorney.

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