Our brains change as we age, such that an earlier brain injury may lead to the onset of cognitive impairment or behavioural issues later in life. More severe traumatic brain injuries in particular increase the risk of long-term consequences, but even a mild traumatic brain injury such as a concussion has the potential to result in cognitive, physical, or emotional symptoms that develop or worsen with age.
Age-related changes in brain function
Through the normal aging process, people experience changes in physical and cognitive function because of natural, predictable changes that occur within the brain. The amount of change varies for each person, but generally speaking, the changes result in the slowing of thought, memory and thinking as a person gets older. The exact relationship between brain injury and aging is unknown due to the fact that aging with traumatic brain injury has yet to be thoroughly investigated. For example, it is not yet known if a person who suffers a single traumatic brain injury during his or her lifetime is at an increased risk of developing dementia. Also complicating matters is the fact that the effects of a brain injury will vary from person to person, depending on the severity of the brain injury, the location of the injury within the brain, and the person’s age when the brain injury is sustained.
How your brain injury may affect you as you age
While the long-term effects of an earlier brain injury are not well-known, it appears to be the case that age-related decreases in physical and cognitive function may be accelerated or exacerbated for those who have sustained a brain injury earlier in life. An earlier brain injury may lead to increased problems with memory, concentration, and multi-tasking later in life as the brain changes with age. Some who have sustained earlier brain injury may develop difficulties with balance, which then increases the risk of falls (and thus the risk of sustaining further head injuries which can complicate a previous head injury). Some studies suggest that a person who had an earlier brain injury has an increased risk of experiencing seizures and mood disorders such as depression or anxiety as they age.
Delayed effects of multiple brain injuries
There is some indication that a person who has sustained multiple brain injuries (for example, a concussion as a result of playing hockey and then a brain injury as a result of a motor vehicle accident) may experience delayed effects of the injuries as they age. The long-term effects of multiple brain injuries in the general population are not well known but the symptoms of delayed effects of multiple brain injuries have been recognized in athletes. Symptoms of neuro-degenerative diseases caused by repeated head injuries such as dementia pugilistica (which can affect boxers) and chronic traumatic encephalopathy or “CTE” (which can affect those who play contact sports such as hockey, rugby or football) typically do not begin until years after the injuries. Symptoms, which can include behavioral problems, mood problems, and problems with thinking, develop progressively over a long period of time and worsen with age.
How does this factor into my ICBC claim for brain injury?
If you have suffered a brain injury as a result of a motor vehicle accident, it is important to be aware of the potential for long-term difficulties. Brain-injured motor vehicle accident victims should wait to settle their personal injury claims until after they have reached maximal recovery and their prognosis is better known. Contact the experienced personal injury lawyers at Simpson Thomas & Associates. We can assist you with bringing a claim to secure personal injury compensation including funding for appropriate rehabilitation and future care needs. To learn more, request a free consultation or call (604) 689-8888.