According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s 2015 report to Congress in March, there are 2.2 million Emergency Room visits associated with concussion or mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI). There are 280,000 hospitalizations and 50,000 deaths every year due to MTBI and despite a Congressional allocation of more than $600 million since 2007, there have been no breakthroughs in the effective treatment of MTBI.

The CDC’s report states that “A TBI can affect how a person feels, thinks, acts, and learns. These effects can last long after a person’s medical treatment and rehabilitation are completed. Falls and motor vehicle crashes, are the leading causes of TBI overall. Understanding the health effects and available rehabilitation services necessary to improve quality of life is vital for reducing the burden and cost of this injury.”

Traumatic Brain Injury

An article in the New York Times recently reported that the Department of Defense has spent more than $800 million on brain injury research, and the National Football League and General Electric spend even more. The long term consequences of concussion which can vary widely from person to person depending on the severity of the injury can include:

  • Problems with basic cognitive skills;
  • Memory loss;
  • Problems with executive function;
  • Speech and language difficulties;
  • Mood and behavior changes;
  • Blurry vision;
  • Vision loss;
  • Changes in the sense of sight, hearing, taste and touch; or,
  • Sleep problems.

These are just a few of the more common symptoms that could manifest following a mild TBI. Given the fact that the number of people who are facing these kinds of challenges in their lives is growing by more than a million each year, businesses have been searching for solutions to sell to an ever increasing market.

Emerging research and technologies

The New York Times article points to the booming industry that is growing up around the treatment of concussion that includes all kinds of products and screening tools, helmet sensors, diagnostic blood tests and brain imaging devices.

In a more controversial type of therapy, hyperbaric oxygen chambers have been promoted to brain injury patients. There were three publicly-funded studies on the efficacy of hyperbaric oxygen treatment for head injury patients that cost $70 million. However, the studies did not prove that the hyperbaric chambers had any effect on the repair and regeneration of brain cells.

In the perfect example of bureaucracy at work, another study is being done by the Government Accountability Office to investigate whether or not the original studies were flawed.

So, despite the millions upon millions of dollars in public and private dollars, we are not much closer to an effective treatment for concussion and mild TBI, which are so prevalent in our society. As consumers, we must be aware when we encounter products that promise an effective treatment for TBI to consider the claims carefully.