Brain Injury Awareness Month: Recovery Timeline

I first became interested in this line of legal work when I was two years out of law school and my first brain injury client came to me for help.  It was then that I realized that he was just like me – young, interested in finding a wife and starting a family, owned his own business, and in an instant it was all taken away by a significant traumatic brain injury (TBI).  I realized that none of us were immune.

Fortunately, we obtained a significant recovery for him in his lawsuit, and it became obvious to me that when lawyers like myself did our job well for TBI clients, we could make a substantial difference in their quality of life.

Thomas Henson, Jr., partner at HensonFuerst Attorneys

Even scientists are still learning about the recovery process and timeline after a moderate to severe traumatic brain injury (TBI), so it’s no wonder that many of our clients are confused.

The one thing we know for certain is that it is important for the TBI patient to be evaluated by a qualified neuropsychiatrist, physiatrist, and neuropsychologist. Experts in those disciplines can run tests and evaluations to determine which areas of brain functioning need to be rehabbed, and the best way to go about achieving the greatest amount of recovery. And it is best to have this evaluation done within the first 2 to 6 months after the injury. (These are general guidelines. Because each injury and each individual has different needs, follow the instructions of the doctor overseeing your case.)

That timeline comes from two observations:  The first 2 months are a time for the body to heal, and many patients are unable to complete the evaluation process before then. And researchers note that the fastest recovery of cognitive function happens within the first 6 months after the injury. The scientific rule-of-thumb is that about 85% of recovery occurs within this timeframe. However, the story doesn’t end there….

It has only been a few years since science has confirmed that the brain is “plastic,” that is, that new neuronal connections can be formed. This process takes time, certainly longer than 6 months. In fact, some experts are questioning whether the 6-month timeframe is accurate. They say that because TBI patients are followed and tested most closely for the first 6 months, and many of them discharged from active medical care, any recovery that occurs beyond that cut-off date may be missed.

The lesson of the week is that there is always reason to hope, and that individuals react differently. Still, it’s important to having testing done early in recovery so that you have benchmarks about where how the brain is currently functioning, and so you know exactly what type of rehab could be most effective.

For more information about brain injury topics, visit our website at If you have questions, HensonFuerst has answer.

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