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Neurofatigue After a Concussion

There is a common perception that concussions are strictly brain injuries. However, while concussions are primarily traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), they also affect multiple physiologic systems throughout the body. Concussions can disturb and disrupt more than simple cognitive functions. Indeed, the impacts of a concussion can be felt throughout the entire body. A person who has sustained a concussion might experience persistent, prolonged changes to their mental and emotional health, as well as their overall energy levels and their abilities to complete basic daily tasks. 

Throughout the province of Ontario, approximately 150,000 people sustain concussions each year. They are caused by forceful impact to the head, neck, or body when a person’s brain makes contact with the interior of their skull. People can sustain concussions as the result of being involved in slip and fall accidents, motor vehicle collisions, sports accidents, and other unforeseen traumatic incidents.

Most people recover from concussions. Usually, recovery can take anywhere from one week to several weeks, depending on the severity of the injury. However, between 15-20% of people who sustain concussions develop prolonged symptoms that can persist for months, and even years after their initial injury. These symptoms can have profound, debilitating impacts on their overall qualities of life, their abilities to carry out routine, everyday tasks, and even their capacities to continue performing the duties of their jobs. 

Among the most challenging, persistent side-effects of a concussion is a symptom that leaves recovering accident victims feeling completely drained after performing even the simplest, low-energy activities. This symptom is known as neurofatigue. 

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Understanding Neurofatigue

Many people suffering from neurofatigue feel exhausted after undertaking the most mundane activities. Throughout the day, people with neurofatigue may feel as though they haven’t had a good night’s sleep and simply cannot function properly. Neurofatigue can make the prospect of carrying out any kind of task feel overwhelming. Making breakfast, taking a pet dog for a walk, folding laundry, even chatting with friends and family members can leave people with neurofatigue feeling both physically and mentally drained. 

Neurofatigue is one of the most disruptive and debilitating prolonged symptoms of a concussion. Many people suffering from neurofatigue find themselves planning their weeks around the effects of their symptoms since they feel unable to take on a number of activities or errands without getting plenty of rest in between. Neurofatigue can also influence a person’s behaviour, as well as their emotional state. They could become easily irritated and terse with friends, family members, co-workers, and others, straining all of their social relationships because of the symptoms of their brain injury. 

After being injured in a traumatic event, the brain begins to repair its damaged structure. If a person sustains a concussion, the brain will start working harder than it usually does, using more brain cells to process information. More parts of the brain need to get involved for a concussed person to carry out normal tasks, like reading, conversing, watching TV, or even folding laundry. This additional strain makes it harder to perform regular daily functions, which can easily cause mental fatigue.

Normally, the brain’s two major “networks” work opposite each other. These main brain networks are:

  • Executive network – responsible for the completion of focus-based tasks
  • Default mode network – active during wakeful rest and not focused on external tasks (i.e. “the ego,” running commentary in one’s head, daydreaming, etc.)

When a person relies on their executive network, their default mode network is supposed to disengage. This allows the person completing a task-oriented project to focus. However, many people who have sustained concussions experience default mode interference. If the default mode and executive networks try functioning at the same time, people trying to perform even a straightforward task can experience diminished cognitive performance, with difficulties concentrating, remembering, and retaining information. It also means that the brain uses more energy to complete even the most un-challenging actions, causing extreme fatigue and burnout. 

People suffering from neurofatigue face real, measurable challenges throughout their day-to-day lives. Recovering from this persistent symptom can take time. Many people struggling to cope with the real-world impacts of neurofatigue find that individual mindfulness practices, cognitive behavioural therapy, and other psychological interventions can help improve their symptoms.

Unfortunately, many injured accident victims have neither the patience nor the financial wherewithal to accommodate this disruptive side effect. Forced to take time away from their jobs because of their inability to work, people suffering from neurofatigue often face financial insecurity. 

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Do People with Neurofatigue Qualify for Long-Term Disability Benefits?

Insurance policyholders whose plans include coverage for long-term disabilities might be entitled to collect income replacement payments if they are unable to work for an extended period of time because of a disabling medical condition. That means, with the right insurance coverage, people suffering from neurofatigue may be entitled to collect long-term disability (LTD) benefits.

LTD benefits provide recipients with crucial financial support when they are unable to continue working because of a physical illness, injury, or mental health condition. Recipients are typically issued between 60-70% of their regular earnings in monthly installments after using up any other benefits that might be available to them.

In order to qualify for LTD benefits, claimants should be able to provide their insurer with compelling medical evidence proving the severity of their disabling condition. Their proof should also illustrate the preventative impact their symptoms continue to have on their ability to perform the duties of their occupation. 

Unfortunately, it can be very difficult to recover LTD benefits for invisible injuries. While the symptoms of certain conditions can be easily observed and proven with objective medical evidence, the experience of a person suffering from neurofatigue is almost entirely subjective. Although findings from MRIs and other brain scans might illustrate a patient’s default mode interference, this evidence might not be sufficient to convince an insurance provider that their symptoms make it impossible for them to continue working. 

Many insurance providers subject LTD claims for invisible injuries to extraordinary scrutiny. They may dismiss an eligible policyholders’ medical complaints as exaggerated, embellished, or altogether untrue. When this happens, people who should be entitled to potentially life-saving income replacement payments could find themselves with no options for financial recovery. 

Our Ontario long-term disability lawyers are well aware of the unfair tactics used by insurance providers to withhold benefits from deserving policyholders. If you are unable to work because of the prolonged symptoms of your concussion but your insurer denied your LTD claim, contact Preszler Injury Lawyers to learn how we may be able to fight on your behalf.

Other Options for Financial Recovery

People who suffer from neurofatigue as the result of a concussion often struggle physically, mentally, and economically. However, depending on the manner in which their concussion was initially sustained, injured accident victims may have a legal avenue for pursuing financial compensation. 

Many people are required to fulfill a duty of care to other community members. Motor vehicle operators, property owners/occupiers, licensed professionals, and others are required by law to exercise reasonable caution in order to reduce the risk of injury-causing accidents. Failure to uphold this duty of care could be considered negligence. 

If you were injured as the result of someone else’s negligence, our Ontario personal injury lawyers may be able to help you recover compensation by pursuing a civil claim against the at-fault party. By doing so, our personal injury lawyers serving all of Ontario may be able to help you recover damages incurred as a result of the injuries you sustained in the accident they caused. These damages might include:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages due to missed work
  • Reduced future earning capabilities
  • Prescriptions
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy treatments
  • Housekeeping services
  • Legal fees
  • And more

To discuss the circumstances of the accident in which you sustained a concussion and learn whether you might be entitled to pursue legal action, contact our Ontario personal injury lawyers today by calling 1-800-JUSTICE.

Contact Preszler Injury Lawyers for a Free Initial Consultation

At Preszler Injury Lawyers, we appreciate that the side effects of a concussion can be debilitating, overwhelming, and persistent. We appreciate the real-world impacts concussions can have on an accident survivor’s daily life, as well as the negative effect it can have on their livelihood.

If you are suffering from neurofatigue after sustaining a concussion in an accident and would like to learn more about options for financial recovery that might be available to you, call 1-800-JUSTICE and book your free initial consultation with Preszler Injury Lawyers.

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