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Researchers have found that work-related traumatic brain injury, which can lead to severe disability, is a serious problem for young workers. Their recent study focused on traumatic brain injury cases involving workers ages 16-24 in the state of Washington.

The researchers identified work-related traumatic brain injuries from a registry and linked them to data from workers’ compensation claims. They found that work-related traumatic brain injury not only has long-term health and psychological effects but is also costly.

These injuries resulted in median medical expenses that ranged between $16,426 and $41,167. Costs for compensated time lost from work ranged between $800 and $2,300.

Most of the injuries analyzed as part of the study occurred in fall accidents. Falls are a leading cause of traumatic brain injuries for workers of all ages. Falls also contribute to other catastrophic injuries like spinal injuries. This is part of the reason federal safety officials are strongly focused on fall prevention in their workplace safety efforts.

Other common causes of traumatic brain injury involving young workers are being in motor vehicle accidents and being struck by or against an object. “Struck by” hazards often involve workers colliding with machinery or being struck by flying debris and falling objects.

According to the researchers, young workers with brain injuries face very serious challenges. A young person’s brain may still be developing, creating a higher risk of long-term damage from injury.

The researchers suggest that employers take special care to ensure that younger workers perform age-appropriate work activities that reduce the risk of injury. It is also important to make sure that younger workers know exactly what they have to do if they suffer a workplace brain injury.

Although many people suffer from TBIs, some groups are more susceptible than others, such as young adults, particularly those between 15 and 24 years of age. After a TBI, young adults face unique challenges compared to older adults.

How can Traumatic Brain Injuries Affect Young Adults’ Abilities?

The effects of a TBI can be felt in a variety of areas, including:

  • Problems with attention, memory, learning new information, organizing, planning, and problem-solving.
  • Trouble using and understanding language
  • Problems moving the mouth and tongue to produce sounds
  • Having trouble reading nonverbal cues (e.g., facial expressions, tone change), and following conversational etiquette (e.g., taking turns).
  • Impaired judgment, reduced inhibition
  • An inability to regulate emotions – mood swings or a lack of emotion
  • Trouble chewing, coughing, or choking when eating or drinking
  • Changes in voice quality or volume
  • Movement and balance problems

After a TBI, young adults are particularly vulnerable to these challenges. Many individuals begin to make important decisions about education, employment, lifestyle, relationships, and personal identity in early adulthood. A number of tools available can aid the recovery process from a TBI.

How can Young Adults Help Themselves Recover After a Traumatic Brain Injury?

The variety of treatment options available to young adults after a TBI can be beneficial.

Combining different approaches can improve daily functioning and overall quality of life for those affected.

If you are planning your next steps following an injury, consider the following resources:

  • The rehab team may include a speech-language pathologist (SLP), occupational therapist (OT), and physical therapist (PT). Therapy sessions and home exercise programs can help improve the impairments described above.
  • Several intensive programs are available to support the higher-level cognitive, social, and language skills required to return to work, home, and community activities after a traumatic brain injury. Find out what community re-entry programs are available in your area. These programs can be especially helpful as young adults learn to cope with adult responsibilities and changes.

Michael Parsons is an Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyer representing injured workers in the metro Atlanta region and helping them recover the workers’ compensation benefits that they have earned. Contact us for a review of your workplace accident and advice on your legal options.