Assault predicts time away from work after claims for work-related mild traumatic brain injury

man holding head

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is associated with physical, cognitive, and neurological impairments that may hinder a person’s ability to perform daily workplace activities. Although the ability to successfully return to work after injury is a significant marker of TBI recovery, little research has focused specifically on outcomes among people who sustained their injuries in the workplace.

A Canadian research team addressed this gap in the research by investigating factors related to workplace TBI. They were particularly interested to know if return-to-work and other outcomes were different when individuals sustained mild TBI as a result of workplace violence rather than vocational accidents (such as falls or motor vehicle accidents). The research team studied hospital admissions and compensation claims data from 3,129 Australian workers who sustained a mild TBI at work, about 9 percent of whom were injured as a result of physical assault in the workplace. They found that individuals whose workplace TBI was the result of assault were twice as likely to request time off work than those who sustained injuries by accidental methods. Men who sustained workplace assault TBI were most likely to work in public safety jobs, while women with assault-related TBI typically worked in health care and education professions.

Although an estimated 20 to 40 workplace assaults are never reported, these new findings suggest that the psychological distress associated with physical assault can negatively affect the injury recovery process. As a result, workers who sustain assault-related injuries in the workplace may require additional services to best support their return to work and other health outcomes.

Shafi R, Smith PM, & Colantonio A. Assault predicts time away from work after claims for work-related mild traumatic brain injury. Occupational and Environmental Medicine. (May 2019).

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