In last week blog, we discussed the Common Symptoms of a mild Traumatic Brain Injury. This week we provide useful information on diagnosing mild brain injuries, how a mild brain injury can impact your life and the support available to you.
Diagnosing mild brain injuries
As we mentioned earlier, mild brain injuries can be very difficult to diagnose for a number of reasons. Many of the common symptoms associated with brain injuries can also be linked to other conditions, such as depression or chronic fatigue syndrome, and it’s not uncommon for a person with a brain injury to be misdiagnosed.
Doctors aren’t helped by scans, which don’t pick up these injuries. Just because a brain injury may not have been properly recognised or diagnosed, it doesn't make the symptoms any less serious for the person who is injured.
After a brain injury, it can sometimes be hard to recognise any changes or explain your
It’s a good idea to keep a diary of your symptoms and experiences to show to your GP. The charity Headway also has a useful fact sheet to help GPs understand your head injury and how it is affecting you. Requesting copies of your medical notes is also a good way to collect all your medical history and symptoms in one place. Asking for past medical notes can take some time and persistence, but will be worth it in the long run, help you to provide a more accurate medical history to any potential treating doctors.
How a mild brain injury can impact your life
Mild brain injuries can have a big impact on many different aspects of your life - even if you don’t recognise it at first. Here are some everyday things that may be affected by a head injury:
- Sustaining another brain injury
- Playing sports
- Returning to work
You should avoid driving until you feel completely well. Many brain injury symptoms, including issues with concentration, dizziness and balance problems, can all impact your ability to drive. When you do feel ready to drive, take things slowly and avoid long journeys. You might also need to inform the DVLA of any changes to your medical condition following a brain injury. Your GP will be able to advise you about this, or you can find out more on the DVLA website.
After a brain injury, people often notice their tolerance to alcohol is a lot lower. It is recommended you avoid alcohol immediately after a brain injury, and only consume alcohol again when you are feeling better. Drinking alcohol can also slow down brain injury recovery and make you more likely to sustain further injuries.
Sustaining another brain injury
Knocks to the head have a cumulative effect, and sustaining other brain injuries can cause serious complications. You should avoid activities that increase the risk of injury to your head (such as playing contact sports) until you have fully recovered.
You should not play any contact sports for at least three weeks after a mild brain injury. If you return too soon, any further injuries to your head can be very dangerous. Many sports (such as football and rugby) have return to play protocols, but other sports are not as strict. You should always be vigilant about returning to play after a head injury. As Headway say – if in doubt, sit it out.
Returning to work
Getting back to work after a brain injury can be a huge step. You might find certain tasks more challenging, or even feel unable to return to the job you did before. Speak to your employer about any worries you may have. They should be able to organise special arrangements to make your return to work as smooth as possible. You may want to consider a gradual return to work or to return on light duties. While you are recovering, try to avoid stressful situations as much as possible, and only return to work when you feel ready.
The changes in your mood, as well as irritability, fatigue, and being overwhelmed by noisy environments can make socialising hard after a brain injury. Other people might not understand how your brain injury is impacting you or what difficulties you are facing. Even though it can be tricky, try not to shut yourself away. Explain your symptoms to loved ones and try to arrange social activities that are more suitable for you.
After a minor brain injury, these activities should become easier as you recover. If you’re still struggling after a few weeks have passed, however, then your injury might be worse than first thought. If you suspect your injury is more serious than your doctor suggested, you should trust your instincts and seek advice from a medical professional with experience in mild TBIs.
Further support after a mild or moderate brain injury
Not having the right support after a brain injury can not only be frustrating - it can seriously impact the quality of your life. Without the help and attention you need, recovery can be extremely difficult.
While your GP may not be able to diagnose your brain injury, they can refer you to a specialist, such as a neurologist, who will be able to offer more specific assessment and treatment recommendations. However, waiting lists for these specialists can often be long.
You might want to visit a private neurologist or neuropsychologist to be assessed more quickly - a list of registered clinical neuropsychologists can be found on The British Psychological Society website.
Charities and support groups
There are also some charities and support groups that can provide you with useful information, advice and guidance after a brain injury. These include:
Headway is a national charity who provide support to brain injured people and their families. They also have a network of local groups and branches across the UK to provide support for people after a brain injury.
- Tel: 0808 800 2244
The Brain and Spinal Injury Centre (BASIC) helps patients to access high-quality rehabilitation and treatment after a brain or spinal injury.
- Tel: 0161 707 6441
Brain Injury Group (BIG)
BIG provide support and information to people living with a brain injury, including injured people, their families and health and social care professionals.
- Tel: 01483 770 999
Helping friends and family to understand brain injuries
Sometimes, friends and family can find it hard to understand a brain injury and how this has impacted on your life. Brain injury is often referred to as an invisible injury, because the injured person may appear completely fine on the outside.
If you’re struggling to explain your brain injury to friends and family, it’s a good idea to ask them to read the information in this eBook. This can help them to understand mild brain injuries better, and the symptoms and problems you may be facing.
Try to explain to your loved ones how you are feeling and help them understand what they can do to assist with your recovery.