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Return to driving after moderate to severe traumatic brain injury

One of the most defining elements of an American's perception of independence is driving. And yet, when a person suffers from traumatic brain injury, the decision (by both patient and family) to return to driving is a difficult and complex one. Motor and cognitive challenges create a concern for family members, but the independence and freedom that it represents can be a boost to rehabilitation efforts.

In a recent study using a large database of moderate and severe traumatic brain injury survivors, researchers found the following:

  1. One year after injury, only 10% of patients had returned to driving. By five years, this number had increased to more than 53%.
  2. Those with less severe injuries returned to driving more quickly than those with more severe injuries (usually within a year).
  3. Race, employment, education, and residence were also factors in whether or not a patient returned to driving, and when. This suggests that socio-economic factors could influence return to driving.
  4. Surprisingly, chemically paralyzed patients (ie, an induced coma) returned to driving more quickly and at a higher rate than other patients.

Although the variables are complex, the decision to return to driving is often made-even by survivors of severe traumatic brain injury.

Novack TA, Labbe D, Grote M, et al. Return to driving within 5 years of moderate-severe traumatic brain injury. Brain Injury. (March 2010).


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