Returning to work following a traumatic brain injury

When people receive a traumatic brain injury, they may have difficulties returning to the same type of work that they engaged in prior to the accident. Depending on the severity of damage, as well as what part of the brain was damage, people may have difficulty concentrating, problem-solving, focusing on tasks, organizing and planning. In addition, people affected by traumatic brain injuries often have trouble communicating with others. Traumatic brain damage can cause serious physical problems, such as persistent headaches, nausea, vomiting, seizures, dizziness, tingling in the muscles, and other sensory deficiencies, including trouble hearing or seeing. These symptoms can be either short-term or long-lasting and can potentially cause problems when people attempt to return to work after their recovery period has ended.

A study performed by Whiteneck and colleagues found that approximately 50 percent of participants affected by traumatic brain injury returned to work after one year. At least 20 percent of those with mild TBI did not return to work. Researchers found that not only did the result stem from inabilities to perform the same tasks that people engaged in before they were injured, but also how people subjectively viewed themselves as unable to meet the requirements that were asked of them. As a result, workers lost wages and became more dependent on government aid.

Additional studies found that people who are unable to return to work suffer extreme fatigue, experience serious emotional trauma and have transportation challenges. Researchers found that when employers provide a supportive work environment, provide cognitive skills training and use technology that helps support those with disabilities, the number of people who return to work with TBI increases.

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