Survey Results: Misconceptions of a Brain Injury

6th August 2020 Personal Injury

As experts in claiming compensation for individuals who have sustained a head or brain injury, we believe that educating the general public about the seriousness of such injuries can help everyone to approach those with a head injury with compassion. To help people understand the severity of head and brain injuries, we ran a survey to find out the public’s knowledge on the assumptions made about brain injury, the symptoms and the effects.

Head injuries can be extremely serious and can cause long-term debilitation, affecting individuals physically, cognitively, and emotionally, as well as changing the way they communicate and behave. Anyone who has sustained a head injury requires extensive specialist medical treatment and should have a high-quality recovery and rehabilitation plan in place that will provide ongoing care and support.

With one in four of the 1,023 survey respondents knowing someone with a brain injury, you can get an idea of how common these types of injuries are, and it’s important that everyone understands what someone suffering from this type of injury is experiencing.

Five common misconceptions made by survey respondents

We asked respondents to tell us whether a list of statements about head injuries was true or false. While most people gave the correct answers for the majority of the statements, there were some that were answered incorrectly or the respondents admitted to not knowing. These include:

Misconception #1: 53% of respondents didn’t know that recovery from a brain injury is possible beyond the first two years

Truth: It used to be assumed that recovery from a brain injury was only possible within the first year or two. However, inconsistency during the recovery period has become expected, as a person with a brain injury might be able to do something easily one day, but then find it difficult the next. Recovery from a serious head injury can take a lifetime.

Misconception #2: 53% of respondents didn’t know whether a child is more likely to recover from a head injury than an adult

Truth: Many people think that a child’s fast-growing brain can ‘bounce back’ after being injured as they are better able to work around the injury. However, it is not that simple. While the brain may find new ways of doing things after an injury, it means it needs to work harder to make up for it.

Furthermore, an injury may interrupt a child’s developing brain before it is able to pick up important skills, making it difficult for them to go on and adopt these skills. Also, while a child may have appeared to have ‘bounced back’ at first, it can often be difficult to spot symptoms and changes.

Misconception #3: 34% of respondents didn’t know that full recovery from a brain injury is possible

Truth: Around 10-15% of people who have suffered a brain injury may have symptoms for sometime after, or even permanently. Even when symptoms are not present, lasting effects or unexpected complications can be present. This can include:

  • Chemical changes in the brain
  • Seizures
  • Increased risk of stroke
  • Increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s later in life
  • Increased risk of a second brain injury

Adults aged over 40 often have more difficulty recovering from serious head injuries.

Misconception #4: 32% of respondents didn’t know that people with brain damage are not always fully aware of its effect on their behaviour

Truth: A person with a brain injury may be unaware of changes taking place, and may even deny them if they are pointed out. This is known as ‘lack of insight’. This can be distressing for those with a brain injury as they may not understand why they are being restricted from taking part in certain activities. 

It is common for people with a brain injury to have insight for some things but not for others. For example, a person may be aware of their physical injuries but not fully aware of any memory problems. 

To find out more about ‘lack of insight’, take a look at this factsheet from Headway.

Misconception #5: 41% of respondents didn’t know that there are other ways to identify a brain injury other than an MRI or CT scan

Truth: MRI and CT scans only show structural injuries of the brain, such as brain bleeds, skull fractures and other forms of acute trauma. Damage such as concussion is a functional injury, meaning it affects how the brain functions, and does not show up on an MRI or CT scan. So while a clear scan can be a good indication of a brain injury, it does not guarantee that there has been no damage.

The full survey data

Are the following statements about brain injury true or false:

About Brain InjuryTrue I don't know False Total
Minor brain damage doesn't matter much, since people only use part of their brains4.22%4016.05%15279.73%755947
It is obvious that someone has brain damage because they look different from people who don't have brain damage2.43%237.92%7589.65%849947
People who have one brain injury are more likely to have a second one19.11%18153.01%50227.88%264947
It is possible that a person's personality will change after a brain injury88.60%8398.66%822.75%26947
Children are more likely to recover for a brain injury than adults33.37%31653.12%50313.52%128947
Most people with brain damage are not fully aware of its effect on their behaviour58.29%55231.68%30010.03%95947
Full recovery from brain injury is possible56.28%53334.32%3259.40%89947
Brain damage is always caused by an injury to the head6.02%5719.75%18774.23%703947
Everyone who suffers a brain injury loses consciousness2.32%2223.23%22074.45%705947
An MRI or CT scan is the only way to identify a brain injury36.33%34441.71%39521.96%208947
A concussion is not a brain injury12.46%11834.32%32553.22%504947
A brain injury can be diagnosed straight away5.49%5230.10%28564.41%610947
People with a brain injury will have lower intelligence than others3.27%3115.84%15080.89%766947
People with a brain injury cannot lead a full and productive life3.38%3211.51%10985.11%806947
People with a brain injury should be treated differently to others4.44%4216.26%15479.30%751947
Recovery from a brain injury is only possible in the first two years5.07%4853.01%50241.92%397947

True or false - a brain injury can increase the chances of the following conditions:

True I don't know False Total

Which of the following are physical symptoms of a brain injury?

Answer ChoicesResponses 
Difficulty sleeping50.38%468
Persistent headache77.83%723
Fuzziness of thought72.66%675
Undue fatigue58.13%540
Loss of or blurred vision75.46%701
Lack of awareness68.03%632
Loss of consciousness69.21%643
Nausea or vomiting68.89%640
Sleeping more than usual58.77%546
Dizziness or loss of balance73.63%684
Blurred vision72.77%676
Ringing in the ears56.94%529
Loss of or altered sense of taste57.16%531
Loss of or altered sense of smell57.59%535
Sensitivity to light or sound63.94%594
I don't know12.59%117

Which of the following are cognitive symptoms of a brain injury?

Answer ChoicesResponses 
Loss of or altered memory77.52%714
Loss of or altered learning69.92%644
Loss of or altered reasoning69.16%637
Loss of or altered judgement69.60%641
Loss of or altered attention or concentration72.64%669
Issues with problem-solving69.27%638
Issues with multitasking66.12%609
Issues with organisation63.30%583
Issues with planning63.63%586
Issues with decision-making67.43%621
Issues with beginning or completing tasks64.93%598
I don't know17.92%165

Which of the following are communication problems caused by a brain injury?

Answer ChoicesResponses 
Difficulty understanding speech or writing73.99%677
Difficulty speaking or writing77.81%712
Inability to organise thoughts and ideas70.82%648
Trouble following and participating in conversations69.29%634
Trouble with turn-taking or topic selection in conversations61.42%562
Problems with changes in tone and pitch57.16%523
Problems expressing emotions, attitudes or subtle differences in meaning67.10%614
Difficult in understanding nonverbal signals62.51%572
Trouble reading cues from listeners59.34%543
Trouble starting or stopping conversations58.69%537
Inability to use the muscles needed to form words63.72%583
I don't know15.96%146

Which of the following are behavioural changes experienced by somebody with a brain injury?

Answer ChoicesResponses 
Difficulty with self-control68.63%628
Lack of awareness of abilities68.52%627
Risky behaviour65.36%598
Difficulty in social situations69.84%639
Verbal or physical outbursts69.51%636
I don't know18.03%165

Which of the following are emotional changes experienced by somebody with a brain injury?

Answer ChoicesResponses 
Mood swings76.94%704
Lack of empathy for others62.73%574
I don't know16.61%152

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