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Approximately 13,000 lives are devastated in Ireland every year by brain injuries acquired through falls, road collisions, attempted suicides and strokes, prompting Acquired Brain Injury Ireland to dub it a “silent epidemic” that leaves families struggling to cope nationwide.

The national not-for-profit has claimed that there is a gaping need for research investment to drive more effective interventions to capitalise on the window of time shortly after injury, when the brain can rewire cells in some parts of the brain.

The latest call for research investment into brain injuries was made by Acquired Brain Injury Ireland at the inaugural #BrainPower seminar, where clinicians from across the country gathered to hear about latest trends in evidence for adjusting to life and delivering interventions for brain injury survivors.

Barbara O’Connell, Chief Executive with Acquired Brain Injury Ireland, said: “Traumatic brain injury is a silent epidemic in this country and while there is no cure for it, we can manage it better and faster with greater research into interventions. The brain injuries we see every day are life-altering, often leaving individuals and their families to cope with severe deficits in memory, communication, physical ability and behavioural difficulties”.

Ms O’Connell continued: “One day you’re living your life as you know it, and the next, you are waking up in hospital, where you may find you can’t walk, speak or remember what happened yesterday. Life doesn’t get any more traumatic than this and it is extremely difficult for anyone to cope with such a sudden change both physically and mentally.

“More research is crucial so we can increase effectiveness of interventions in the short time period immediately after injury. The more we know and learn, the more progress we can make with neuro-rehabilitation and ensure more people live to their full potential”.

Dr Brian Waldron, Clinical Psychologist said: “Every brain injury is unique and affects people differently. Brain injury can affect cognitive functioning including memory, language expression, visual perception and motor skills. Relationship breakdown can happen and people can lose friends. One individual may become depressed, in fact this happens to 40 percent of brain injury survivors. But then another individual with a similar injury may be positive and proactive to achieve their rehabilitation goals.

“At Acquired Brain Injury Ireland, we are constantly working to a person-centred approach taking account of the whole person and the life they had before injury so we can work with them to help them recover as much quality of life as possible. With more research into interventions, this could open up more opportunities to tap into the potential of brain injury survivors and help them to progress more quickly”, he concluded.

Acquired Brain Injury Ireland is Ireland’s leading provider of community rehabilitation for those of working age (18-65 years) living with and recovering from an acquired brain injury, delivering community and residential services to 1,100 brain injury survivors annually.