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New Brain Injury Research by UVa and Other Med Schools on the Horizon

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According to an article appearing in Charlottesville, Virginia's The Daily Progress on January 17, 2012, more scientific research by over 100 medical schools, including the University of Virginia Medical School, soon will be devoted to brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSDs).

The research programs, encouraged by the federal government and the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC), will be devoted to traumatic and multiple brain injuries. The push to perform this research coincides with the return of soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan, many of whom have suffered brain injuries.

According to Dr. Steven T. DeKosky, Vice President and Dean of the University of Virginia Medical School, UVa has already implemented a program, to which more curricula will be added. The program at UVa will be headed up by a retired colonel who served in Iraq, Dr. Ray Costabile. In a meeting with Virginia’s medical school deans at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) and First Lady Michelle Obama last week, DeKosky noted that "Brain injuries are what they’re calling a signature injury of these new wars."1 These injuries often occur when soldiers are "blown backwards by an explosion and stopped by, [something like] a wall, and from being exposed to the blasts themselves."

Professor Donna K. Broshek, associate director of UVa’s Brain Injury and Sports Concussion Institute, said, "UVa was among the first places to look at the effects of sports injuries on the brain." Broshek also noted that at one time concussions were not thought to be a burgeoning medical research problem, but, along with the increased frequency of sports injuries came "the big question of the effect of multiple concussions."

Scientists will be examining and attempting to discern "the mechanism by which multiple injuries cause different effects to the brain than single injuries", DeKosky stated. He indicated that service members, like football players, "are likely to be subjected to repeated head injuries that they’re likely to avoid reporting.Frequently victims of concussions are highly motivated to disregard the symptoms and keep going." Soldiers want to get back to their unit, and players to their team, as soon as possible. Professor Broshek concurred, "The really important thing is when you get a concussion from sports you need to sit out until you’re fully recovered." It is hoped that the program at UVa will serve as a successful model for similar programs throughout the nation.

It is great to see this research taking place. Brain injuries are often overlooked or ignored by the injured, and their families, because the injured person may look fine, and may interact "normally" most of the time. These injuries also sometimes occur with falls and automobile crashes, where one may show no obvious, outward signs of physical injury. Sometimes, only the person or very close family members may be aware of problems, or that the injured is experiencing debilitating symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, photosensitivity, noise sensitivity, sleep loss, irritability and/or personality changes, and other symptoms. Hopefully, this research will help with diagnosing and treating, as well as preventing, many of these very serious injuries.

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    Brain injury research can have many meanings. The one area that must not be overlooked is brain cell regeneration research. Brain cell repair offers hope to severely injured TBI survivors that the chance at a meaningful life is a realistic possibility. All medical disorders strive to acheive cures. TBI is no different.