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From The Philadelphia Inquirer:

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have drawn more attention to the plight of brain-injury survivors, as has the NFL's recent acknowledgment that some of its players are suffering neurological consequences from repeated concussions. But our health policies and treatment practices have yet to catch up to the staggering toll of this complex and insidious condition.

Five million Americans are living with disabilities from brain injuries. There are 80,000 to 90,000 new long-term disabilities from brain injuries each year, and a new traumatic brain injury is sustained every 23 seconds.

For all our lifesaving modern technology and medicine, we know little about brain-injury survivors' lives. How do they cope? How can they find new meaning and purpose in life? And how can we help them?

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We chronically underfund disability and rehabilitation research, according to the Institute on Medicine, and brain-injury survivors have limited access to cognitive rehabilitation services. Far too often, we fail to consider or evaluate how policies affect the lives of brain-injury survivors.

For people whose brain injuries are labeled "mild" - those that involved little or no loss of consciousness - the challenges are particularly acute. The vast majority of the 1.4 million brain injuries diagnosed in emergency rooms every year are classified as mild. Most of those patients fully recover.

Yet the estimated 10 to 20 percent who suffer long-term consequences from those injuries - memory loss, difficulty making decisions, irritability, loss of coordination, fatigue, hearing and vision loss, and inability to complete tasks - are seen as malingerers. They are called lazy, stupid, or crazy.

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