Brain Injury Among Women


The Canadian Institutes of Health Research reports that traumatic brain injury (TBI) “is a global epidemic, causing death or disability in approximately 10 million people worldwide each year”.  Although brain injury is more common among men, millions of women are injured every year, and there are differences in the impact and recovery for acquired brain injury among women and men.  For example, female athletes are more likely to sustain a concussion than male athletes and have poorer outcomes post-concussion.

An acquired brain injury is a brain injury that is caused by a motor vehicle accident, sports injury, fall, physical assault or another traumatic event.  Individuals who sustain an acquired brain injury often experience serious and permanent physical, cognitive, psychological and social symptoms.  Symptoms and outcomes can have significant economic and personal repercussions for the injured person.  

According to Brain Injury Canada, a lack of understanding of the effects of brain injury has historically led to misdiagnosis and inadequate treatment. Particularly problematic is the fact that there has been little research conducted on the experiences and outcomes for women, despite evidence that there are substantial gender differences in outcomes. Understandably, this shortfall makes women vulnerable to diminished psychosocial outcomes and increases the likelihood of subsequent mental illness, substance abuse, disability, and unemployment.

On September 29th, Brain Injury Canada is including a half-day symposium in their annual Brain Injury Conference (taking place at the University of Toronto) to address brain injury issues that particularly affect women. The purpose of this symposium is to raise awareness of the need for gender-based traumatic brain injury (TBI) research to help understand the unique challenges and any areas of concern for women and girls who sustained a brain injury, and also to provide research results that may be relevant to survivors, healthcare professionals, and researchers.  Symposium speakers include healthcare professionals and women who live with a brain injury.

The fact that there are sex and gender differences in the diagnosis and outcome for women who sustain a brain injury is recognized by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and brain injury among women is identified as an important subject area for future research. One of the facts that has already come to light is that women who sustain TBI tend to experience more headaches and dizziness than do men.  Researchers speculate that physiological characteristics, such as size and hormones, may impact the severity of symptoms and recovery.  It has also been suggested that social factors can also influence experiences and recovery.  For example, some women have reported foregoing rehabilitative treatments and care in order to carry out domestic responsibilities, even when they experienced serious mental and physical symptoms. Also, women who sustain TBI at a later age are far more likely to move to a long-term-care facility, rather than undergo recovery at home, than are men.   

Disturbingly, TBI frequently goes undiagnosed among women who seek medical treatment for abuse, and women with a history of TBI are at an even greater risk for further abuse. Clinicians have emphasized that there is a real need to better train healthcare providers to effectively counsel girls and women who have a history of TBI about partner violence.  

There is clearly a call for further research to understand the effects of TBI on a woman’s mental and physical health, and social well-being. In Ottawa, the Brain Injury Association of the Ottawa Valley provides assistance through the Step Up Workshop, education, and advocacy for brain injury survivors and their families.  Burn Tucker Lachaîne is proud to support the Association’s Tenth Annual Fundraising Benefit Dinner to be held in Ottawa on Thursday, September 22nd. This year our speaker is a female brain injury survivor who is also a Yoga Instructor. For further details on registration and keynote speaker, see the website of the Brain Injury Association of the Ottawa Valley, or e-mail Colleen Burn at cburn@burntucker.com.

Sources:
http://braininjurycanada.ca/wp-content/uploads/5783-GenderSummitV7.pdf
http://www.cihr-irsc.gc.ca/e/49000.html

 

By Colleen Burn of Burn Tucker Lachaîne Personal Injury Lawyers on September 11, 2016
Tags: Brain Injury, Community Involvement, Head Injury, Personal Injury, Serious Injury