Predicting recovery time from concussions: New research may help brain injury claims

by John McKiggan

As a personal injury lawyer in Nova Scotia I commonly deal with clients who have suffered head injuries and concussions.

One thing that I have noticed is the symptoms and severity of head injuries, and how long it takes the patient to recover can vary greatly.

One of the challenges brain injury lawyers face is proving what the long term consequences will be for someone who has suffered a traumatic brain injury. I discuss this in more detail in my public legal education guide: Brain Matter: The Survivor’s Guide to Brain Injury Claims.

Recovery time difficult to predict

Most people who suffer a concussion will recover within hours or days. But as we have all seen from the recent challenges faced by Sidney Crosby, concussion symptoms can last for months. A small percentage of patients who suffer concussions will develop post-concussion syndrome, where the symptoms last a year or more.

What that means in brain injury compensation claims, is that the injured plaintiff shouldn’t settle their claim until all the symptoms of their concussion have resolved.

One of the most common questions people ask me when they first come to see me is: “How long will it take to settle my claim?”

The honest answer to that question is: “I don’t know.” To understand why read Personal Injury Claims in Nova Scotia: The “Golden Rule”

To date, there has never been an accurate tool or system for predicting the required recovery time for concussions.

Recovery time related to symptom severity

But new research designed to help treat brain injury victims may also end up helping plaintiffs who have filed a compensation claim as a result of having suffered a concussion.

This article highlights research in The Journal of Pediatrics from the Boston Children’s Hospital and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center which attempts to correlate symptoms of concussion with recovery times.

Previous studies tried to correlate recovery time to the ages of patients or whether recovery time was related to having previously experienced a concussion.

Relating symptoms to recovery time

The Boston – Pittsburg study analyzed 182 patients who suffered from concussions. The patients ranked the severity of their symptoms on a scale from 0-6 with 0 meaning ‘not experiencing this symptom’ and 6 meaning the symptom was ‘severe’.

The researchers then compared the severity of the symptoms with the recovery times and found a correlation.

Long term problem

One of the researchers on the study, Dr. Meehan, says:

“Parents, physicians, and caregivers of athletes who suffer from a high-degree of symptoms after a sports-related concussion should start preparing for the possibility of a prolonged recovery.”

Patients who are suffering from a concussion should be careful about rushing back into strenuous activity. I have posted about the dangers of repeat concussions here: Concussions and Traumatic Brain Injuries in Sport

This useful website provides step-by-step guidelines for parents who are assisting their children in recovering from a concussion.

Hopefully, with a little more research, physicians will eventually be able to accurately predict the length of recovery times for concussions based on the severity of the symptoms experienced.

Research may help doctors…and lawyers

This will serve to assist physicians in properly coordinating the appropriate treatments for their patients. But it will also help brain injury lawyers, and their clients, because it will allow lawyer to estimate, in advance, how long a client will be disabled as a result of their concussion, which in turn should allow lawyers to more accurately predict, and prove, the quantum of damages the brain injured plaintiff may be entitled to receive.

If you suffered a concussion what are your legal options?

Concussions are a serious injury that can have long- term, potentially devastating, effects. With careful investigation an experienced brain injury lawyer can increase the odds of scoring a win for injured athletes.

If you are interested in reading more about concussions, or brain injury claims in general, you may want to read my latest book: Brain Matter: The Survivor’s Guide to Brain Injury Claims.

I have been representing survivors of traumatic brain injury for 22 years. After spending years volunteering with the Brain Injury Association of Nova Scotia I realized there is a real lack of public awareness about traumatic brain injury claims.

So I decided to write a book to try to help educate the public and to provide information to brain injury survivors, and their families, about the legal issues surrounding traumatic brain injuries.

Brain Matter: The Survivor’s Guide to Brain Injury Claims is now for sale on

I’m donating all the sale proceeds from to BIANS.

If you use an e-reader, they even have a version for Kindle.

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