A Brief History of

Brain Injuries

Doctors’ viewpoints on brain injuries have a significant bearing on brain injury lawsuits, and it is fascinating to see how views have changed over time.

Timeline

Persian physician Rhazes described concussions as transient states.

10TH CENTURY

10TH CENTURY

Persian physician Rhazes described concussions as transient states.

13th century


European physician Lanfrancus hypothesized that brain injuries were caused by shaking (or commotion).
Italian physician Jacopo Berengario da Carpi furthered this idea by suggesting that this commotion was caused by the soft matter of the brain hitting against the hard skull.

16th century

16th century

Italian physician Jacopo Berengario da Carpi furthered this idea by suggesting that this commotion was caused by the soft matter of the brain hitting against the hard skull.

19th century

Several English physicians spread the idea that recovery from concussions was at least partly psychological, and “reassurance” was suggested as a treatment.

In 1879, German physician Johannes Rigler suggested that rather than a real injury, concussion claims were really a form of “compensation neurosis.” In 1892, another German doctor, named Friedmann, proposed that post-traumatic symptoms such as headaches and dizziness were actually caused by “disordered intracranial circulation.”

Late 19th century

Late 19th century


In 1879, German physician Johannes Rigler suggested that rather than a real injury, concussion claims were really a form of “compensation neurosis.” In 1892, another German doctor, named Friedmann, proposed that post-traumatic symptoms such as headaches and dizziness were actually caused by “disordered intracranial circulation.”

1920′s


A standard medical text of the time stated that concussion symptoms lasting longer than two weeks were psychological (and that disability claims were therefore immoral). In 1920, William Sharpe, a professor of Neurologic Surgery in New York, stated that post-trauma patients exaggerated their symptoms for financial gain and that the symptoms were not physiological.

In a 1934 paper published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, New York doctors Strauss and Savitsky stated that, “the medical literature on the neuroses following trauma is tainted by a polemical undercurrent” and doctors must be “particularly cautious” when dealing with head injuries.

1930′s

1930s


In a 1934 paper published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, New York doctors Strauss and Savitsky stated that, “the medical literature on the neuroses following trauma is tainted by a polemical undercurrent” and doctors must be “particularly cautious” when dealing with head injuries.

1960′s-1980′s


The debate continued, with most medical experts supporting the idea that persisting symptoms were the result of financial greed. Several clinical and empirical studies showed results to the contrary, but overall research on this subject was limited during this time.

The U.S. Congress designated 1990-1999 as the Decade of the Brain, and the tide began to turn within the medical community. In 1991, The Colorado Medical Society published a grading system for concussion severity. In 1994, the NFL first acknowledged the danger of concussions. In 1997, the American Academy of Neurology published its own concussion guidelines for sports teams. (The NFL rejected those guidelines.) In 1999, the NFL’s retirement board began giving out huge disability payments to former players.

1990′s

1990s


The U.S. Congress designated 1990-1999 as the Decade of the Brain, and the tide began to turn within the medical community. In 1991, The Colorado Medical Society published a grading system for concussion severity. In 1994, the NFL first acknowledged the danger of concussions. In 1997, the American Academy of Neurology published its own concussion guidelines for sports teams. (The NFL rejected those guidelines.) In 1999, the NFL’s retirement board began giving out huge disability payments to former players.

2000s


The NFL poured money into campaigns denying the link between brain injuries and any long-term problems such as depression or dementia. The NFL’s Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (MTBI) committee releases studies that show “no link.” NFL players who had committed suicide were found to have CTE.

Dr. Bennet Omalu examined the brain of Mike Webster during an autopsy and discovered an accumulation of tau protein, evidence of a brain disease that Omalu called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. CTE is a neurological degenerative disease that is a direct link between head trauma and dementia later in life.

2002

2002


Dr. Bennet Omalu examined the brain of Mike Webster during an autopsy and discovered an accumulation of tau protein, evidence of a brain disease that Omalu called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. CTE is a neurological degenerative disease that is a direct link between head trauma and dementia later in life.

2009


In a dramatic position reversal, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello says, “It’s quite obvious from the medical research that’s been done that concussions can lead to long-term problems.”

Sources:

Mild Traumatic Brain Injury: Symptom Validity Assessment and Malingering, edited by Dominic A. Carone, Ph.D.

“Concussion: The history of clinical and pathophysiological concepts and misconceptions,” by Paul R. McCrory, PhD FRACP and Samuel F. Berkovic, MD FRACP, in Neurology (December 26, 2001), vol. 57, no. 12.

“Persistent post-traumatic headache, postconcussion syndrome, and whiplash injuries: the evidence for a non-traumatic basis with an historical review,” by Randolph W. Evans, MD.

Traumatic Neurosis From a Medical Point of View, by Archibald Church, in Southern Practitioner (1910), vol. 32.

Persistent-Post-Concussion-Syndrome, by David J. Bradbury-Squires, in Hektoen International (Spring 2016).
“THE SEQUELÆ OF HEAD INJURY,” by Israel Strauss and Nathan Savitsky, in The American Journal of Psychiatry (July 1934), vol. 91:1.

A Timeline Of Concussion Science And NFL Denial, by Barry Petchesky, at https://deadspin.com/a-timeline-of-concussion-science-and-nfl-denial-1222395754.

The NFL’s Response to Brain Trauma: A Brief History, by Ta-Nehisi Coates, at https://www.theatlantic.com/ entertainment/archive/2013/01/the-nfls-response-to-brain-trauma-a-brief-history/272520/