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Brain injury: the hidden disability


Hear how Nicola Cooper, who suffered a brain injury after a minor accident, rebuilt her life and family with help from Shoosmiths.

link to traumatic brain injury audio

The effects of brain injuries are often misunderstood. The ease with which brain injuries can occur and their impact not just on the individual, but the entire family is often underestimated. Frequently, there are no external scars or signs to show that someone has suffered a severe brain injury. That’s why it is often referred to as the ‘hidden disability'.

After a traumatic brain injury medical professionals tend naturally to focus on the patient, but research shows there is also a great impact on family members. Studies in the 1970s began to recognise these issues and other work in the 1980s documented emotional distress among caregivers and family members that persisted for up to seven years after the immediate traumatic event which caused the brain injury.

Close family are likely to suffer high levels of anxiety and depression during the years following a brain injury to a family member and often experience a decrease in their ability to cope with their own emotional or behavioural problems.

Spouses or partners often feel isolated and trapped in a marriage or civil partnership where their emotional needs are not being met. Relationships are put under tremendous strain when a spouse or partner has had a severe brain injury. The charity Headway estimates that roughly 20% - 50% of all married couples facing these circumstances end up seeking a divorce.

Children often experience emotional problems and their performance at school can suffer as a result of their lack of understanding of the suddenly strange or difficult behaviour of a parent with a brain injury.

Families need attention, information, guidance and support if they are to regroup and rebuild their lives after a brain injury.


Rose Donoghue is a partner with Shoosmiths specialising in traumatic brain injury (TBI) cases. 

Nicola Cooper is a client of Shoosmiths who suffered a serious brain injury as a result of a seemingly minor car accident seven years ago.


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