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In an instant, a traumatic brain injury changes a life. Serious brain injuries are obvious and treatment comes immediately, but “mild” injuries are difficult to diagnose.

Frequently, brain injury survivors have no visible signs of injury, and doctors tell them that they’ll quickly get better. Some symptoms of brain injury are also the symptoms of fatigue and illness, so many of those “mild” brain injuries are never properly identified and treated.For individuals and families, the financial burdens associated with a brain injury can mean disaster. A representative of anyone who has suffered a brain injury needs an experienced attorney as soon as possible.

Brain injuries are terribly common. Every year, 1.5 million Americans suffer them. Half result from automobile, motorcycle, and bicycle accidents. Of those victims, 50,000 die, and 80,000 begin long-term disabilities, often in nursing homes and rehabilitation centers far from family and friends.

Recently, brain injury survivors have received some good news on two different fronts. The first is diagnosis. By combining two different brain-scanning techniques – MEG (magnetoencephalography) and DTI (diffusion tensor imaging), researchers can now detect injuries more easily and begin treatment more quickly.

The second piece of positive news is the settlement of a class action suit in Massachusetts that has given people with brain injuries the opportunity to live more independently than they can in nursing homes and rehabilitation centers.

The case, Hutchinson v. Patrick, found that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts was violating the Americans With Disabilities Act by failing to provide adequate community services for brain injury victims.

As a result of the case, as many as 2,000 people in Massachusetts may be able to move to group homes, apartments, or home with their families. The expectation of those who brought the case is that other states will follow the lead of Massachusetts and provide better levels of care.

Certain groups are at very high risk for head injuries. For military personnel in combat zones, brain injuries are an occupational hazard that every soldier faces. Recent research indicates that better helmet design may keep soldiers safer.

Football players suffer frequent concussions, and too many concussions can end a career. Ironically, some studies have found that soccer players actually suffer more brain traumas than football players.

In many sports, brain injuries are unfortunate side effects, but in boxing, a head injury is the goal. A fighter scores the ultimate victory when he causes a head injury that leaves his opponent too dazed to continue or completely unconscious.

Some people suffer brain injuries as the result of others’ negligence. Others make bad choices that harm themselves and their loved ones.

John E is a bicyclist who made a decision that would change his life forever. On a chilly March day, he wore a cap for warmth instead of a helmet for safety. On a steep downhill, his bike slid on loose gravel. He crashed and his head hit the road. If he had been wearing his helmet, his injury almost certainly would have been much less devastating.

John spent months in hospitals. His broken bones healed, and he received excellent care for his brain injury. He’s in good health and he’s been able to return to work. He’s riding his bike again. He looks fine, and he smiles a lot. You would never know that he suffered a brain injury, unless you talk to him.

The result of his crash is that his brain and his speech don’t connect. He can talk clearly, but his words just don’t make sense. His brain injury has taken away his ability to carry on a conversation and to earn a living. If he had worn his helmet, his life would be much better today.

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Richard Alexander