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Traumatic injuries are generally thought to be readily apparent. A broken bone, a herniated disc – these are obvious results of a distinct event, like a car crash. What many people do not realize is that some injuries, even very serious injuries, are not immediately recognized. This is especially true of traumatic brain injuries.

The brain is an incredibly complex and fragile organ. Medical science is just beginning to understand how a “normal” brain functions. Even less attention has been paid to the anatomic and physiological effects of an injury to the brain.

An article in the September 30, 2010 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine discusses the need for ongoing research on traumatic brain injuries. While the references to axonal injuries and chemical pathways make little sense to people who aren’t scientists, the fundamental principal is important. Traumatic brain injuries are actual, physical injuries caused by an external force. They are not “made up,” and they cannot be faked. In many ways, traumatic brain injuries are very similar to the broken bone or herniated disc.

Unfortunately, many high-profile stories have brought this issue to the forefront. Increased media exposure of football-related brain injuries, as well as those in other sports such as boxing and soccer, have resulted (finally) in greater attention to these severe and debilitating injuries. Each new injury is a tragic example of the real, physical basis of brain injuries.

Hopefully ongoing research will lead to a greater understanding of traumatic brain injuries. The more we understand, the better equipped we will be to prevent and heal them.

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