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Traumatic Brain Injury May Be Treated as Chronic Disease

That knock on the head you received as a child could be the cause of many current ailments, from alcoholism to homelessness. That's the finding of studies by the Brain Injury Research Center in New York.

According to the study, researchers found higher instances of previously undetected head trauma from people hurt in accidents or sports and victims of abuse. While the head heals, researchers found that, in many instances, the brain did not, which can lead to a variety of mental illnesses.

In one example, a woman lost her ability to read after a window fell on her head. Told she was fine, she walked home, but couldn't find her way. She lost her teaching job and couldn't keep her apartment clean or neat. She took part in the brain study, engaging in a very thorough program of cognitive reinforcement, and within two years, her life improved greatly.

Of the homeless who took part in a study at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, more than 80 percent suffered some type of blow to the head when they were younger.

With the evidence in hand, two new researchers are suggesting that certain brain injuries be treated by insurance companies as chronic diseases. The researchers, from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, agree that brain injuries can produce ailments such as sleep apnea, psychiatric disorders and even sexual dysfunction and Parkinson's disease. These problems, including a lowering of life expectancy, should force insurers to treat them as they would any other treatable disease.

Early intervention, the researchers say, could save for future treatment.

But a change in classifying some head injuries as chronic diseases could play havoc with the legal system and cause an increase in malpractice filings, with the base allegation that a physician missed early signs that something was wrong.

Related Resource: Wall Street Journal "Should Traumatic Brain Injury Be Considered a Chronic Disease?"

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