When San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland made the decision to retire in his prime, it once again called attention the risks of suffering a traumatic brain injury that professional athletes face when playing America’s most popular sport. Many players are looking at the future and considering their health as more important than a career in professional football. A massive paycheck, at the end of the day, cannot balance out the health impacts that many of these athletes suffer later in life, or take place while playing the game. Borland felt that he didn’t want to wait until he suffered symptoms to quit the game; that could be too late, and he felt that he would prefer to live a long, healthy life.
The NFL has been avoiding this issue, and has consistently downplayed the symptoms that athletes playing pro football face after repeat concussions. There was much research that revealed that players were susceptible to various health problems from repeated head trauma, and despite the research to the contrary, the NFL was responsible for funding a study that claimed that the sport did not pose any extraordinary risk to players, and has even blamed journalists for shining a light on the problem, rather than dealing with traumatic brain injuries as a real issue of concern that must be addressed and resolved.
The Impact on the Brain: Repeated Concussions
Findings released by Dr. Bennet Omalu in 2005, as reported by Frontline, revealed that the autopsy findings on Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster who passed away at the early age of 50 showed that he had the brain of a much older person. PBS reports that other autopsies on former NFL players clearly indicated that in 76 out of 79 cases, the players had evidence of CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a degenerative disease of the brain associated with repeated brain trauma and concussions).
Whether the NFL finally admits to the problem and addresses it or continues to try to downplay that this is a serious issue of concern, it has become ultimately clear that sports professionals are at high risk of suffering serious health problems associated with the pounding they take to the head in tackling and being tackled. Children involved in sports are also at risk of such injuries, and parents would be prudent to discuss these issues with coaches and trainers before allowing a child to participate in a sports program that could endanger their health for the long term.
After sustaining a concussion or other type of traumatic brain injury (TBI), there is no question that the path to recovery may be long and grueling. While rest and relaxation are important, taking steps to become more active may also be beneficial in the recovery process. Even returning to work could be helpful in certain circumstances.
It is not uncommon for survivors of traumatic brain injuries to become anxious to get back to a somewhat “normal” routine as soon as possible. While not all TBI survivors will be able to return to work or enjoy life as they once did, some may be able to rejoin the workforce with proper precautions.
If you have sustained a traumatic brain injury, and feel you have recovered to the degree that you are capable of returning to work, here are five things you need to do:
1. Talk with your doctor about returning to work.
Before you return to work, it is important you discuss it with your doctor. Not all TBI symptoms are severe, yet even mild symptoms could cause significant, long-term damage. If you return to work too soon, you could cause more damage than good. Added stress can have a negative impact on TBI recovery. Since your doctor has an in-depth understanding of the extent of your injuries, as well as how your recovery is going, he or she can best advise you on the pros and cons of going back to work at your current stage of recovery.
2. Coordinate a work schedule with your employer.
Once your doctor has cleared you to return to work, it is important you take the time to sit down with your employer and coordinate a sensible work schedule. You should not try to work on the same schedule you did prior to your injury. Ease back into work. You likely need to arrange to have reduced responsibilities at first. You should also plan to work shorter hours and be allowed to take more frequent breaks, particularly if your symptoms get worse. Do not worry about coming across as lazy, as you are far from that. It takes a lot of strength and tenacity to return to work after suffering a traumatic brain injury.
3. Take precautions to avoid hazards at work.
After suffering a traumatic brain injury, it is extremely important for you to use caution to avoid hazards at work. Do not perform work that requires you to climb ladders or work at heights. Do not attempt to lift any boxes or move heavy objects around. Driving after a TBI may be dangerous as well. If your job requires you to drive, ask your employer to put you on a desk job for the time being. Working with machinery is not advised, as hand-eye coordination and mental capacity are likely to be diminished. The bottom line is, if some part of your job requires you to do a task that could cause you injury or harm, ask for help from a co-worker or ask your boss to reassign the task. There is no reason to put yourself further at risk.
4. Get lots of rest.
Traumatic brain injuries can affect a person’s physical capacity, as well as his or her cognitive and emotional capacities. If you do not get sufficient rest, the stress on your body may be too much for your brain to easily handle. Getting a lot of rest is one of the most essential parts of any TBI recovery plan. Your brain needs downtime to heal – time when it is not trying to assimilate information while watching TV, playing video games, reading, having conversations with others or trying to figure out problems at work.
5. Get regular checkups.
It is really easy to get involved with work and other activities while recovering from a traumatic brain injury. It is also easy to forget or ignore the need for regular checkups. If you do not want your recovery to regress, go see your doctor for regularly scheduled checkups or when symptoms appear to worsen. By doing this, your doctor will be able to closely monitor your progress and address any possible concerns. The earlier symptoms are caught and treated, the better your chances are of achieving a full recovery.
Families who have a loved one with a brain injury are often overwhelmed, devastated and struggling with loss, and need support to make it through one of life’s most difficult situations. It is important to have access to the resources and support available to you.
According to the Alabama Head Injury Foundation (AHIF), more than 10,000 individuals sustain a traumatic brain injury each year. The question is, where can these individuals and those caring for them turn for assistance? What resources are available? Who can answer their questions? What services are provided to aid victims through the recovery process?
The AHIF has resource coordinators you can contact to get assistance with home modification, securing disability payments, securing medical equipment, support meetings, respite care for caregivers and other important services. The Brain Injury Association of America (BIAUSA) has a number of resources for family members and caregivers to help them understand more about what lies ahead, as well as how to manage stress and cope with long-term issues. Other resources include Share the Care™ and BrainLine.org.
It is devastating to have a loved one who is suffering from a traumatic brain injury. The future may hold months or years of recovery and treatment, and it is often a very slow process. People who have suffered a mild traumatic brain injury can have many difficulties, including memory loss, deep fatigue, emotional ups and downs, headaches and ongoing trouble in every aspect of life.
Potential long-term consequences of a traumatic brain injury can include personality changes, anxiety, depression, angry outbursts and other emotional problems. The physical repercussions often include ringing in the ears, nausea, difficulty sleeping, dizziness, blurred vision and sensitivity to light and sound, among others.
More serious cases of brain injury often require surgery to release the pressure on the brain. Families are thrown into fear and despair, facing an uncertain future and doing their best to stay hopeful and positive. Do not hesitate to reach out and get the help you need to make it through these difficult times.
Common Struggles Facing Brain Injury Victims and Caregivers
Brain injury victims generally have a long road to recovery. The prognosis for the injured person could be unclear, and family members don’t know if their loved one will recover memory, or be able to once again be fully functioning. If you have a loved one who has suffered a brain injury, many difficult challenges can arise on a daily basis. Common struggles include:
A TBI victim may be unable to think or function as he or she did prior to the injury. Physical and cognitive difficulties are common, and abilities can be greatly compromised. For less serious brain injuries, recovery takes a long period of rest as the body rebuilds. It may be difficult to have patience, but it is important to recognize that the process will take time.
There may be assumption that an individual has recovered due to outward physical appearance. While a victim of TBI could appear to be normal, it doesn’t mean the brain is functioning at its normal level or ever will be. Adjusting to new situations can be difficult.
While those who have suffered a traumatic brain injury may need to relearn how to talk, walk and perform other tasks that we take for granted, there is no need to treat a survivor as a child. Always communicate with respect and kindness and assume your loved one can understand you.
There is a tendency to fall into negativity, depression or despair. Try to be positive. Recovering from a brain injury may be a long process. Be patient with your recovery or with your loved one. Offer your unconditional support and maintain hope for what the future may hold.
Loved ones and caregivers can also face a multitude of struggles. Some of the most common are:
Exhaustion resulting in physical and mental burnout
Personal blame and feelings of guilt
Lack of financial resources or support
Feelings of despair or helplessness
Coping with a Brain Injury
Recovering from a brain injury or supporting a loved one who is recovering from a brain injury includes getting help and support. You don’t need to go through this alone. Whether you are a brain injury survivor, the loved one of a survivor or a loyal caregiver, many helpful resources are available. Working with others who have dealt with similar issues can help you face the challenges ahead, and give you the strength you need to move forward.
Have you ever been pulled over for speeding only to notice cars passing you at a speed noticeably higher than the posted limit? Frustrating, isn’t it. Speeding seems to be an ongoing epidemic on our roadways, difficult to control and impossible to stop completely, even with hefty fines. Speeding is one of the most prevalent factors contributing to traffic crashes in the U.S. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), speeding accidents occur when a driver has been racing, driving too fast for conditions, or exceeding the posted speed limit. Just because your car is fully equipped with the top of the line safety gear or your speedometer indicates that your vehicle has the ability to handle over 90 mph, doesn’t mean you should test either one.
A Driver Profile: The Speeder
The age old question is “Why do drivers speed even though they know it’s dangerous and illegal?” It’s fair to say that all drivers have sped at one time or another, intentionally or unintentionally. You’re out on the open freeway, in the middle of nowhere. There are no cars or people for miles around or so it seems. Even on those desolate stretches of highway, a patrol officer may find you and ticket you for driving above the posted speed limit. Your excuse may vary, depending on what kind of driver you are. If you are a thrill seeker, infamous for rarely driving the speed limit, who loves the feel of a dangerous high speed, you probably don’t have a valid excuse (or even attempt to make one) when you’re caught by the highway patrol. If you consider yourself a law abiding, rule following driver, you most likely use the cruise control on long stretches of road and only speed when you are lost in the moment of the beautiful scenery or lost in the chapters of an audio book.
Despite numerous images and stereotypes, there is no particular driver who speeds. Sure, there may be some truth (and coincidence) that a young driver, who navigates a sporty red car, has higher rate of speeding violations than the older driver who drives below the speed limit because his eye sight is failing and his car might be older. But when you stick to the speed limit, while driving, watch the people passing you and you may be surprised by your observations. Speeders are young and old, male and female, and drive luxury cars and clunkers. (Note: Don’t get too immersed in your observations; keep your eyes on the road). Drivers, who are full of excuses and hard to change behaviors, are more likely to be involved in a speed related crash. Drivers speed for numerous reasons, including but not limited to:
Drivers are in a hurry, rarely leaving extra time for traffic, weather, or other factors
Drivers are inattentive to their driving. Many are too distracted to pay attention to the primary task of driving while other drivers spend so much time behind the wheel that they almost become “robotic”, unaware of their driving habits and behavior.
Drivers have the “Mightier than Thou” attitude. They don’t take traffic laws seriously or they don’t think the laws are applicable to them. Traffic laws do not offer exceptions.
Dangerous drivers rarely notice or admit to dangerous driving. Chances are, if a driver knew that their driving was problematic and potentially fatal, they wouldn’t take such risks. Our roadways are full of drivers in a state of denial.
Stop the Speeding Before it Starts
Sometimes sharing the facts, can offer as a scare tactic or encourage drivers to change dangerous driving behaviors. According to NHTSA, speeding is one of the most dangerous driving habits to have. Not only does speeding increase the risk of an otherwise preventable accident, but speeding:
Reduces a driver’s ability to steer safely around curves or objects (similar to the navigational skills of an impaired driver.
Extends the distance required to stop a vehicle in emergency situations (such as a car braking in front of you or an animal or pedestrian who ran onto the road).
Decreases the effectiveness of safety restraints such as airbags and seatbelts.
Increases the probability of death over speeds of 50 mph.
Makes it difficult for other drivers to judge how fast you are driving.
So, what happens when the facts aren’t enough to change the horrible habit of speeding? That’s when the authorities step in and try to make some changes with the help of tools like speed cameras. In large cities, where law enforcement is already delegated to other areas, speed cameras are a valuable tool to monitor speeding while taking care of the problem.
In an attempt to cut down speeding and potential accidents in Chicago, speed cameras were installed as a “practice run”. In just 40 days of monitoring, the cameras, located throughout different areas of the city, caught 204,743 speeders. Over 77,000 motorists were caught driving at least 11 mph over the speed limit while over 126,000 drivers were going between 6-10 mph over the speed limit. If the city would have handed out tickets, rather than warnings, the total collection would have equaled $12.2 million. While currently there is controversy whether or not Chicago will enforce ticketing via speed cameras, it’s clear that speeding is a problem.
Speeding kills, it’s bad for your car, it’s dangerous to your health, it makes our roadways more dangerous, and it rarely gets you from point A to point B any quicker. If you have a “lead” foot, consider changing the way you drive. Slow down, enjoy the scenery, save some gas, and nothing else changes your behavior, think of all the cash you’ll save by not paying the hefty fine of speeding ticket!
If you were involved in an automobile accident, and if you have no medical insurance, you had better hope the accident happened in a no-fault state, where accident costs fall equally on both parties’ auto insurance policies. If it didn’t and you actually opened the hospital bill, you may need to go back to that same hospital to be treated for a heart attack!
Hospital bills in August of 2013, on the cusp of the Obamacare act – formally known as The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) – are unbelievably high. It is almost a case of your entire fortune and your first-born, with coverage for critical care costing more than $3,500 per day.
Under no-fault, it’s easy to get insurance companies to pay up: in fact, they are mandated by law to do so. Unfortunately, if they don’t pay all the bills, deeming some the insurance owner’s responsibility – did you ask for and receive PTSD therapy, a home-care nurse or outside caregiver, or an at-home heart monitor? – you will be unable to sue your insurance company for full restitution.
During Sticker Shock Recovery
Sticker shock recovery may be more difficult and prolonged than actual physical healing, depending on not only the kinds of care you need in the hospital but the geographic area where you live. Costs for Florida-based treatment of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder) run almost $63,000. The same treatment in a Minnesota hospital runs about $21,000.
In spite of such disparities, it can be said that, in the northern tier of states – except Washington, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New Jersey – hospital costs are lower than the southern tier. The exceptions noted above are not only populous states, but states where workers make very good incomes; two factors which make costly insurance self-explanatory.
Along the southern tier, Florida and Texas are expensive. Another Pacific Coast state, California, is equally expensive. But there are exceptions, and in general, hospital costs across the U.S. form a crazy quilt of medical expenses for inpatient hospital care that make little sense at first glance. For those interested in delving deeper into costs, a visit to the electronic pages for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or CMS, has a wealth of information.
What You Can Expect in Fault Auto Insurance States
If your auto accident is very expensive, both in terms of property damage and bodily injury, and you live in Michigan – which mandates Personal Injury Protection (PIP), Property Protection (PPI), and Residual Bodily Injury and Property Damage Liability (BI/PD) – you will eventually end up with a fat folder of bills from hospitals, doctors, medical professionals and even some people you never heard of.
For example, if you had an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), you will get one bill from the hospital and another for the individual or group that “reads” the test. In a blessedly few cases, you may get separate bills from the technician who performed the MRI, the individual who examined the scan, and the company or division in the hospital which owns the device. Good luck sorting that out!
Michigan’s minimum coverage limits for the various aspects of auto insurance. PIP pays all “reasonable and necessary” medical bills up to three years, including lost wages. PPI pays up to $1 million, which may seem like a fortune until you add up the medical bills. The BI/PD portion of that policy indemnifies the driver or policy holder for any out-of-state property damage; the limit is $10,000. The minimum amount you are required to shell out – which varies from one insurance company to the next (welcome to free enterprise!) – will pay $20,000 per each person injured or killed, and $40,000 for each accident where several individuals are hurt or killed.
What about All Those Bills?
Your insurance adjuster will love you if you start a tabbed file for every kind of bill you receive after a fender-bender. If you don’t, and he or she has to wade through the paper tsunami you have created, you may not get the same kind of fast, generous service settling the bills as someone who has will.
If you’re not a paper-pusher and your main job is making sure the plastic bubble in the bag-making machine doesn’t collapse, let your wife help. You might even drag in your teenagers to give them first-hand experience with the way insurance works.
At the beginning, you should send a note to every provider who sends you a bill explaining that the services are the result of an auto accident, and that your insurance provider is handling the bills. Use your insurance-generated claim number and the name of your adjuster in every piece of correspondence. If your letter or bill is more than a page, carefully staple the pages or – if your adjuster says don’t – preface every document with a fax-cover page (your name, fax number, telephone number, claim number, adjuster’s name, and a line item indicating how many pages you are submitting including the fax cover page). Copy every piece of outgoing mail relating to the accident.
Make copies of the prescriptions your doctor orders, and get receipts for every single item you purchase in relation to your injury. As long as you are careful about filling in the appropriate subsections on claim forms, your adjuster will see your behavior not as OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) but as the sign of an organized mind. After all, that’s what he (or she) does in the office.