The History of Brain Injuries

As Brain Injury Awareness Month comes to a close, we’ll explore historical cases of brain injuries throughout the centuries. There are records of brain injury treatments dating back to at least 1600 BCE. However the 20th Century’s rapid rise in urbanization has propelled the number of recorded brain injuries as well as increased effective treatments.

The oldest known mention of brain injuries dates back to 1600 BCE (before common era). These mentions come from an ancient Egyptian text known as the Edwin Smith Papyrus, which is thought to be a copy of an even older text. This text is so old that it goes as far as mentioning magic as a last resort in terminal cases. To get an idea of what treatment for a brain injury was like then, this text directs bandaging the head wound with meat and applying a honey and oil type of dressing until healed.

Another historical example from the 16th century is also one of history’s most remembered figures. A recent study argues that King Henry VIII of England’s erratic behavior was a result of possible repeated traumatic brain injuries. Researches have made a compelling case citing notes that describe changes including memory loss, irritability, impulsive nature, and insomnia. All known today as common symptoms of a TBI.

One of the most notable instances of brain injury took place in the 1800’s. Phineas Gage survived an accident where an iron rod penetrated his head and destroyed a good portion of his left frontal lobe. Prior to his accident, Gage was described as “even-tempered” but his demeanor shifted significantly afterwards. Due to the definitive nature of his injury and the personality changes that followed, many cite this as the first case illustrating mood and personality shifts directly resulting from a brain injury.

Significant advances were made to head injury treatments in the 20th Century. Why? There were dramatic increases in head injuries. This was a result of growing urbanization and skyrocketing road traffic as cars became the dominant method of transportation. Recent numbers in the US show falls as the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries. However, traffic accidents are still the third most common cause of a TBI.

As the 21st century drives forward, so do advances in brain injury treatment. We continue to learn more about the brain, what makes it healthy, and how it heals. As we recently discussed, there are technologies in existence now to detect, treat, and even prevent brain injuries. Next month we open our 6th and 7th Intrepid Spirit centers, specializing in treating brain injuries and psychological health conditions in our service members. Our centers incorporate both traditional and new/non-traditional treatments like art and animal therapies to help heal our heroes. Learn more about about our mission here.

Posted on March 28 2018 in Blog

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