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Jack Sisson's TBI Blog

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I love the CBS television show Without a Trace. There's the dramatic tension you might expect from a one-hour program about a search for a different missing person every week. But the writing is superb, the acting exceptional, and, as my wife could tell you, I often end up sniffling by the time the hour is up. Alas, this season, since they moved the show to Sunday nights -- where its airtime is frequently, unpredictably bumped by sports events -- I don't see it much anymore.

But I did for some reason catch the episode ("Crash and Burn") originally aired last Sunday, April 15. (Trailer here, on the ever-valuable YouTube.)

I won't detail the plot here, spoiling it for any of you who'd like to see it. But I can tell you that the plot hinged on a brain injury suffered by a veteran of the US Marines -- not in combat, but in a trail-bike accident.

Two items of interest about this episode:
  • First, the storyline depended not just on the facts of the veteran's brain injury, but on what life was like for him afterwards. For instance, he recounted one particularly excruciating incident: He'd left his house to walk a couple of blocks to a store one night. When he came out of the store, he looked down the street to his house... and he didn't recognize it.
  • Second, nowhere in the episode -- that I caught, anyway -- did the phrase "traumatic brain injury" appear (nor, of course, the abbreviation "TBI"). As Jack Sisson says in chapter 1 of his book here at
I believe one reason traumatic brain injury is not more widely recognized is that it has no name, or rather, too many names. Think about it – concussion, closed head injury, coma, shaken baby syndrome, diffuse axonal injury, second impact syndrome, coup countrecoup injury, contusion -- all refer to brain injury and are often used interchangeably with TBI...

Acquired brain injuries (ABIs) further complicate matters... many experts and organizations refer to all brain injuries as ABIs, with TBI being just one type of ABI. Confused? You should be.

It can be surprising to find TBI referenced in popular culture. More, it can be astonishing to find it referenced as TBI; I kind of wish one of my favorite show's writers had latched onto the term.

If you're interested in the episode, again, the episode title is "Crash and Burn." It will no doubt be re-broadcast sometime between now and the start of next season; you might also watch for it on the TNT cable channel, which shows Without a Trace reruns.

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