Among the many possible effects of a traumatic brain injury (TBI), there are physical disabilities like problems with balance, coordination and walking. For those in Los Angeles who work in physically demanding fields like construction and nursing, these disabling symptoms can make doing their jobs impossible.
This condition is known as hemiparesis. Unless someone with hemiparesis can recover at least some of their lost function, they might never work again. Even more importantly, their quality of life could be impacted for the rest of their lives.
There is a long way to go in the medicine of healing the brain. But researchers around the world are working on the problem from a variety of theories. One potential method is using robotic exoskeletons to help with rehabilitation. Recently, a team of researchers testing exoskeleton technology reported promising results — at least among teens and young adults who had suffered TBIs that affected their balance.
A month of exoskeleton use
In the study, subjects aged 13-28 with hemiparesis due to brain injuries underwent 12 45-minute sessions of exoskeleton-aided rehab over four weeks. At the end of the rehab period, the subjects generally had improved walking gaits. Their steps were longer, they walked more quickly, and with improved loading.
Until TBI is cured, disability will be the common result
The sample size for this study was small and focused entirely on young people. But every time a study like this presents positive findings, we come a step closer to a cure for the effects of brain trauma. Someday, a serious TBI may not automatically force the victim to stop working and otherwise limit their independence and quality of life.
But for now, many victims must confront the prospect of years of disability. Fortunately, they may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits to help make up their lost income.