Traumatic Brain Injury Rehabilitation

Traumatic brain injury victims may need extensive rehabilitation to restore lost brain functions or to learn how to compensate for functions that cannot be restored. Rehabilitation is a crucial component to recovery and gives a victim and his or her family hope for the future.

Traumatic brain injury rehabilitation can begin early; after the completion of initial treatment or while a person is still in hospital care. A team of doctors and brain injury rehabilitation specialists evaluate the extent of brain damage and coordinate a program of brain injury rehabilitation.

Depending on what part of the brain is injured and the extent of brain injury, a person may have any number of impaired brain functions. Cognitive traumatic brain injury rehabilitation addresses problems with memory, speech, attention, planning, and decision making. Physical traumatic brain injury rehabilitation addresses balance, limb coordination, and voluntary movement.

Cognitive Traumatic Brain Injury Rehabilitation

Cognitive traumatic brain injury rehabilitation aims to restore lost brain functions and teaches a traumatic brain injury victim to compensate for functions that cannot be restored. The severity of brain injury (mild, moderate, severe) and the type of brain injury (diffuse axonal or focal injury) helps doctors determine what brain functions are lost or impaired. A victim with moderate to severe traumatic brain injury may have problems with both basic cognitive functions (memory, speech, attention) as well as complex cognitive functions (planning, decision making, and behavior). A victim with mild traumatic brain injury (concussion) may not need extensive cognitive rehabilitation, though he or she may display problems with memory, emotions, and behavior.

During cognitive traumatic brain injury rehabilitation, basic skills are strengthened (focus, attention, perception) or compensated for before fine, complex skills are added (reasoning, planning, judgment) to the rehabilitation program. A victim may need to re-learn to identify colors, shapes, and objects. A victim may also need to re-learn to read, write, or use language.

Physical Traumatic Brain Injury Rehabilitation

As traumatic brain injury victim progresses through cognitive rehabilitation and improves attention, focus, and memory, physical rehabilitation begins. As with cognitive rehabilitation, physical rehabilitation aims to restore as many functions as possible and teaches a person to compensate for physical impairments.

First, a person first learns simple movements such as sitting up, standing, and re-orienting right from left. After simple movements are mastered, a person learns fine motor skills such as holding a tooth brush, eating, or bathing. A person with more severe brain injury may never recover basic or complex movements.

If a brain injury victim has additional bodily injuries, he or she may need more extensive rehabilitation. Accompanying spinal cord injuries compound rehabilitation challenges, and a brain injury victim must learn to compensate for any lost movements capability.

Traumatic Brain Injury Rehabilitation Specialists

Cognitive and physical traumatic brain injury rehabilitation requires a team of specialized doctors and physicians who can assist in the rehabilitation and recovery journey. These doctors include neurologists, physiatrists, neuropsychologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, cognitive therapists, speech pathologists, and social workers.

  • Neurologists specialize in nervous system treatment (the brain, spinal cord, muscle and nerves). Neurologists evaluate and diagnose the injury.
  • Physiatrists combine physical medicine and rehabilitation to restore brain function. Physiatrists are trained in both neurology and orthopedics.
  • Neuropsychologists evaluate brain function and perform tests to identify what brain functions are lost.
  • Physical therapists restore motor function, strength, coordination, balance, endurance, and movement.
  • Occupational therapists help patients with daily activities including bathing, dressing, using the restroom, transferring (getting in and out of a chair), and feeding.
  • Cognitive therapists teach techniques to help improve memory.
  • Speech pathologists teach speech, writing, reading, and expression skills for both comprehension and communication.
  • Social workers facilitate communication between medical staff, rehabilitation specialists, family, and insurance carriers. While a brain injury victim rehabilitates, it is important for the victim's family to seek grief counseling or to join support groups. Support groups and counseling can help the family cope with the tragedy.

There are several special traumatic brain injury treatment centers in the United States that are specifically designed and equipped to treat traumatic brain injury victims. To learn more about traumatic brain injury treatment centers and traumatic brain injury care giving, please read other articles on this site.

[Last revision: July 2009]

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