Awareness around the impact of brain injuries has increased. Professional athletes are sitting out of playoff games and parents are being called on to enforce helmet-wearing.

Considering brain injuries are the most likely of any injury to result in death or disability worldwide – this is not surprising. Canadians experience a brain injury every three minutes, equalling to 452 per day. These staggering statistics call on scientists to continue asking the right questions that will lead to innovation in diagnosing and treating these injuries.

Here are the top 3 Brain Injury Advancements of 2019:

1. New Technologies  

In 2019, new technologies have become available to better understand, prevent and treat traumatic brain injury. The EyeBOX, aids in the diagnosis of a concussion, as well as it’s severity, using an algorithm to generate a score. It will allow medical professionals to better understand the next steps for their patient, and uses and requires no baseline testing.

Another technology, the NeuroCatch Platform, is working to provide medical health professionals objective, physiological markers of brain function. Using hardware and software, trained administrators can determine “brain vital signs” of their patients, creating a meaningful index of an individual’s healthy brain function, to address concerns of injury (like concussion) or disease (like dementia).

2. Deeper Understanding of the Physiology of Traumatic Brain Injury

In Alzheimer’s patients, researchers have learned that tau and amyloid proteins collect between neurons causing what they call “plaque” in the brain. As the plaque builds, it disrupts the connection between brain cells, ultimately leading to a variety of symptoms such as gait problems, confusion, memory loss and more.

A recent study of the brains of post-mortem professional athletes, who experienced repeated blows to the head over their career, are demonstrating these same characteristics. When an individual experiences a traumatic brain injury, the inflammation caused from bruising also leads to plaque build-up. What this means, is that with continued imaging of tau and amyloid proteins, researchers can better understand neurologic conditions and their pathologic patterns, and ensure patients are receiving accurate treatment. Continued studies are required to continually improve the treatments available to individuals who have experienced mTBI or TBI.

3. Global Collaboration

Along with advancements in technology, researchers from across the country are coming together to enhance the clinical practices for TBI. The International Initiative for Traumatic Brain Injury Research (InTBIR) is funded by a 2019 grant, that will work to join the efforts of research centres around the world. They will share research in an open-source registry, standardize their data and re-orient research questions to provide more impactful answers. By using big data and world-wide collaboration, the ultimate goal is to increase treatment outcomes and decrease the significant burden of TBI.

With continued technological advances, research wins and world-wide collaborations, 2019 is on-track to make an impact in the realm of traumatic brain injuries.