Recovering from a TBI: A Marathon, Not a Race

I think that's one of the myths about TBI, that there is a certain period of time that you need to intervene, and if you basically don't intervene then it's all over. I tell my patients all the time that we're not running a race, we're running a marathon. And what we're talking about is something that you're going to be living with for the rest of your life, and you're going to need to keep on finding ways to compensate in doing things better than you are today. So, really, what you think about--there are really two ways to be looking at the period of recovery from a brain injury. One is that period of spontaneous recovery, which is the period soon after injury when the brain is essentially rebounding. Swelling is going down. Neurons that were merely damaged are basically--pressure is being removed from them so that they can function again. You know--you can talk about that period, let's say, of being about a year. After that, we don't stop learning. So, people continue to learn, and basically all learning is mediated by the brain. So, obviously there is something going on when people with a brain injury continue to learn. And they can continue to learn cognitive skills, they can continue to improve physically, so there's no endpoint in terms of when treatment should be stopped. Indeed, I firmly believe that there's nothing as a person with a brain injury meeting their maximal recovery unless they're totally who they were. So you should be keeping on providing treatment and stimulation and practice and exercise for people for the rest of their lives.

Living with a TBI can be lifelong; with work, improvement never ends.

Wayne Gordon

Wayne Gordon, PhD, ABPP/Cn, is the Jack Nash Professor of Rehabilitation Medicine and associate director of the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. He is a neuropsychologist and the director of the Mount Sinai Brain Injury Research Center.

Posted on BrainLine March 15, 2011

Produced by Noel Gunther, Ashley Gilleland, Victoria Tilney McDonough, and Brian King.

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