Returning to work after traumatic brain injury: a nationwide registry-based study

The ability to return to work (RTW) is considered a major milestone for recovery after a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Individuals may struggle to return to work after TBI because these injuries are known to cause significant deficits in physical, cognitive, emotions, and communicative functioning. Although young adults tend to have better functional outcomes than older adults after TBI, young people may be particular vulnerable to occupational impairments because they typically are in early or transitional stages of their careers.

A recent study in Denmark investigated the effects of TBI on RTW in a cohort of young adults ages 19-30. Using data from a national registry, researchers collected data from young adults with TBI and a group of non-injured controls, recording their employment status and stable labor-market attachment (sLMA), defined as financial self-supportiveness for at least 75% of a continuous year. They found that half of individuals with TBI returned to work relatively quickly within 12 weeks of diagnosis. Within 10 years, about 70% were employed, matching the employment rates of the control group. However, young adults with TBI showed poor sLMA, which did not significantly improve even after 2-5 years.

Despite relatively fast RTW, only a small proportion of young adults with TBI are able to continuously support themselves in the years following injury. Clinicians and family members of young adults with TBI should be aware that this population may require supplementary financial and vocational support during the recovery period.

Tibœk M, Kammersgaard LP, Johnsen SP, et al. Long-term return to work after acquired brain injury in young Danish adults: A nation-wide registry-based cohort study. Original Research. (January 2019).

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