Although long-term cognitive and physical impairments are well known after-effects of moderate to severe TBIs, doctors are less certain of the expected course of recovery for people with mild forms of the injury, researchers from JAMA Neurology have found.

The new study, from researchers in the United States, involved 1,154 patients with mild TBIs and 299 patients with orthopaedic injuries but no head trauma.

Two weeks after their injuries, 87% of brain injury patients and 93% of the other trauma patients reported functional limitations – a difference too small to rule out that it was due to chance.

The groups remained on a similar trajectory six months after their injuries, but after a year, brain injury patients fared worse – 53% still had functional limitations, compared with 38% of the other trauma patients.

“Unfortunately, many patients with mild traumatic brain injuries do not get any follow-up care after being discharged from the hospital,” said study leader Lindsay Nelson, from the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.