Traumatic brain injury is appropriately named traumatic, as it is an extremely serious injury from which there is no predictable recovery time. The best answer to the question, “How long will it take me to get better?” is “It depends.”
In the early stages of a head injury, it is impossible to predict what lies ahead. Each doctor will likely give you a different estimate of how long your recovery will take. Some may say your recovery is maximized six to nine months after the injury, and others may say you have several years to improve. However, traumatic brain injury victims will likely have made significant improvements in certain skills and learned to cope with what can’t be improved in that length of time.
Although it is rare for someone to say she’s recovered 100 percent from a head injury, many will return to work, resume a normal family life, and function well socially. But he may still say he feels different.
The Brain’s Potential for Recovery
According to CNN, the brain is extremely resilient and has the capacity to restore some functions after traumatic injury, a phenomenon called plasticity, which is enhanced by rehabilitation.
Plasticity is the brain’s ability to change. We now know that it is possible to form new brains cells (neurons) even as adults, and by undergoing rehabilitation to relearn basic tasks, a traumatic brain injury patient may be able to form new brain connections that allow him to make a more complete recovery. The goal of rehabilitation is to stimulate the brain to reform lost circuits, but how well a patient recovers depends on the severity of the injury. Generally, the more improvement shown in the early stages of traumatic brain injury, the more potential there is for improvement long term.
Change is a hard part of life, and the reality is traumatic brain injury or not, we are always changing. Although the aging process is gradual, a head injury causes sudden change, which makes it all the more difficult. But the good news is that people do get better. It just takes time and persistence.