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A recent study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons discussed the fact that hundreds of thousands of people in the United States suffer minor traumatic brain injuries (mTBI) every year. The journal article notes how these mTBIs often go undiagnosed and can fester, causing serious problems down the line.

The report first notes that each year 1.4 million people suffer a traumatic brain injury. Of these, the vast majority (75 percent) are minor TBIs. Minor TBI is defined as a head injury that leads to a temporary change in mental state. These mTBIs can result in confusion, behavioral impairment or changes in perception.

According to researchers, falls and car accidents are the most common cause of cases of mTBI and often exist alongside bone and joint injuries. The researchers note that musculoskeletal injuries are seen concurrently in as many as 50 percent of all patients with mTBI.

Though doctors have discovered that many of those who suffered mTBI can expect to fully recover from their injury and return to their baseline mental status, trouble exists when these injuries go undiagnosed. Unfortunately, given that these head injuries are less severe, the symptoms may be missed by a treating physician and will only really be noticed when the patient resumes his or her daily life.

Given this hidden danger, the CDC recently issued a statement describing mTBI as a major public health issue and a silent epidemic in the country. The problem with mTBI not being diagnosed is that it often leads to persistent cognitive impairment, with patients reporting symptoms of depression, anxiety and, in some cases, even PTSD months or years down the road.

Symptoms such as headaches, exhaustion, dizziness, anxiety and memory trouble impact nearly 60 percent of those who suffer mTBI one month after the initial injury. Estimates show that of this group, between 15 and 25 percent continue to suffer mTBI symptoms including compromised mental function as much as a year or more after the initial injury.

The study suggests that orthopaedic surgeons can play an important role in diagnosing mTBI in patients. Given how connected musculoskeletal issues are with instances of head trauma following a car accident, doctors who notice such issues can be a great help by referring patients to other doctors with expertise in diagnosing and managing mTBI.


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