Author Archives: Brett A. Burlison

Walk For Brain Injury In San Francisco

The Brain Injury Association of California is holding its ninth (9th) annual walk for brain injury in San Francisco and other locations this Summer. The walk is a great opportunity to raise awareness of an injury and disease that impacts millions of people across the country every year.

Here is what you need to know:

  • May 21 – Bakersfield
  • July 16 – San Francisco
  • September 10 – Los Angeles (Arcadia)

Here is additional information specifically for the San Francisco event.

Pomeroy Recreation & Rehabilitation Center
207 Skyline Boulevard
San Francisco, CA
Walk Times:
Registration Starts: 10:00 am
Walk Starts: 11:00 am
Event Ends at 2:00 pm
Distance: 1-2 miles

Event Information:
Food trucks to provide a variety of lunch options, music, and raffle. Exhibitors will provide information and local resources.

Dogs are allowed but must be on a leash

Site Coordinator:
Paula Daoutis
(661) 873-6555

If you need additional information about a different location or would like to learn more about the Brain Injury Association of California, you can visit there website at

Playgrounds And Traumatic Brain Injury

A new study from the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control has found the incidence of tribes to the ER due to traumatic brain injury among children under 14 increased significantly from 2005 to 2013.

Researchers theorized that the increase in these injuries among children stems from kids spending more time on playgrounds (generally a good thing), and increased awareness among parents and educators about the symptoms and dangers of TBIs (also generally a good thing).

According to researchers involved in the study, and as reported by ABC News and others, 95% of these children were treated at hospitals and released without the need for further care. Many of the injuries, especially in the younger children, which made up about 50% of those in the study (ages five to nine), are believed to be the result of falling from monkey bars, slides, and falling while climbing.

However, it is important to stress two things: one, kids need exercise and as much outdoor time as possible; and two, the vast majority of individuals who do suffer head injuries, that do not involve serious trauma or fractures, recover without lasting damage.

So, parents and educators should seek out play surfaces for children that are soft and more forgiving in nature, such as foamed and matte surfaces or sand. And second, children should always be supervised by an adult who knows the signs and symptoms of a serious TBI – vomiting, loss of consciousness, sleep disturbances, emotional issues or sudden changes in behavior, lethargy, and irregular vision or hearing problems.

If you would like to read more about these injuries or the study sited above you can do so here.

Injury Victims Using Exoskeleton

rewalk-exoskelet-6_0We have written previously about robotics and exoskeletons helping injury victims. But the importance of this technology cannot be overstated. So when we came across a product like ReWalk Robotics we felt that we really needed to share this.

The company has FDA approval for a previous device and just launched its version 6.0. It’s a robotically-assisted walking system that aims to allow spinal cord injury victims and others who have lost the use of their legs to leave wheelchairs behind and get up and walk.

The bottom line is that the ReWalk 6.0 is an exoskeleton device that one wears and allows the user to walk at speeds of 1.6 miles per hour, according to the company.

The exoskeleton comes, at least for now, with a hefty price tag – $77 grand. So most folks may not be able to run out and get one just yet.

But our hope is that as this technology becomes more pervasive and is continuously perfected, it will get lighter and better and less expensive.

If you would like to learn more about the company or watch a great video on it and the story of the founder’s awesome story – click here for the original story and link on Digital Trends.

And here are some other stories regarding robotics and exoskeletons that involve technology that could help injury victims in the future:

Brain Injury Patients Have Few Options

In the San Francisco Chronicle today (08/09/15), Nanette Asimov writes about one family’s struggle providing care for their son who sustained a traumatic brain injury in his junior year at UC Berkeley.

To make a long, and tragic, story short, Ms. Asimov explains how the money from a settlement, which was the result of a lawsuit the family filed against the dormitory where their son lived when he suffered a drug overdose, is running out. John Gibson, 26, will have to be moved from his family’s home because of the costs associated with his care.

His family’s choices are not good. Without private insurance or money to cover his costs he will have to go to a facility that accepts Medi-cal and takes brain injury victims. There are not a lot of those.  And, what is even more frustrating for John’s family is that it would actually be cheaper to keep him in his home.

The Gibsons paid $435 per day last year for all of his care. That’s for everything. Medi-cal will pay a facility $691 a day to care for him. But Medi-cal will not pay to keep him in his parents’ home. And, according to the Chronicle, Medi-cal will not cover several of the therapies that he is now receiving that are important to his health and quality of life.

So Medi-cal pays more and the injury victim gets less. This is a terrible scenario for everyone, especially John and his family. But as tragic as it sounds, the Gibsons are actually lucky that they have had the resources to provide John with the care he needs up to this point. Traumatic brain injuries are taking place across the country in epidemic numbers. And the overwhelming majority of those cases involve individuals who do not have insurance or resources to deal with such an injury.

According to the CDC, there are more than 1.5 million traumatic brain injuries treated in emergency rooms annually. The number of actual brain injuries sustained is difficult to determine because many of these injuries are not reported. According to the Brain Injury Association of California, over 350,000 California residents currently suffer from a brain injury.

In the most severe cases such as John’s, California has dedicated far too few resources.

If you would like to learn more about traumatic brain injury, you can visit our resource page here. If you would like to read the article in the Chronicle about John’s injury and his parents ordeal you can do so at the San Francisco Chronicle here.

Risk of Concussions Reduced With Smaller Soccer Ball

Soccer BallAthletes are at a higher than average risk for a mild traumatic brain injury or concussions due to the nature of their sports and the mechanism of these injuries. And nowhere is this risk more evident than in youth soccer.

So when we read recently, in the New York Times 10/26, about a soccer mom who had developed a new ball that could reduce injuries we were intrigued.

The soccer mom turned soccer ball manufacturer is Majken Gilmartin. She is from Denmark and the balls are called the Eir Ball. They are smaller and lighter and made from softer materials than a normal regulation soccer ball.

Here is why size matters.

Around the age of 12 or 13 soccer players move from the balls that they have been using in children’s leagues and on to the size used by professionals. These balls are designed for adults. The problem is the balls are significantly larger and heavier than what the children have been using and can cause injuries with smaller players for a variety of reasons. The larger size of these balls can cause younger players to fatigue faster, further increasing the risk of injury. The greater weight of the ball, in proportion to a young teen or preteen’s body, can also increase the risk of head injuries when the ball is head-butted by a player. In 2007, Ms. Gilmartin noticed that her daughter and teammates fatigued faster while using the larger adult size balls. So, she decided to do something about it.

Here’s what she did.

Ms. Gilmartin was not just a soccer mom but a former player and coach and filmmaker and organizer of soccer tournaments in Copenhagen. She developed a ball using materials from Korea and Japan and manufactured it in India. The Eir Ball is 26.4 inches in circumference and weighs 13 ounces. It’s up to 3 ounces lighter and 1 1/2 inches smaller than a professional sized ball. The softer material used also helps prevent the ball from absorbing water when wet, which can make soccer balls heavier and harder.

The Danish Football Association has approved and allowed the use of Eir Balls in girl’s and women’s recreational games since 2010.

Ms. Gilmartin has convinced soccer clubs and players all over Denmark to purchase and use her ball. 16,000 have been sold. She has brought in a partner to expand the business and is looking for retailers in the United States.

One of the additional positive aspects of the Eir Ball is that because they are smaller and lighter their use may increase the speed of the game and the number of goals scored. And this would certainly improve the sports popularity with American audiences.

Over 1.5 million individuals in the US are treated every year for a traumatic brain injury (TBI). These injuries range from an mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) or concussion to a severe TBI, which can require emergency brain surgery.

We support any attempt in any area of life to reduce the risk of these injuries, especially where youth are concerned.

So, we wish Ms. Gilmartin much success.

If you would like to read more about this subject you can find the New York Time’s article here. And you can find Ms. Gilmartin’s brand of soccer ball at

Wills And Trusts After A Personal Injury

When someone suffers a life threatening injury it’s time for them to get their affairs in order. When someone dies and their affairs are not in oder, their loved ones can be burdened by overwhelming tasks and obligations.

The New York Times this morning (9/6) has a good article on the various steps that need to be taken for estate planning. Having helped families after wrongful deaths and personal injuries, we have seen the consequences up close of a lack of planning. We have also had first hand experience with this issue recently and write from that experience.

Here is what families need to consider.

A living trust.

Living trusts have been promoted and over promoted. These arrangements are useful if you have a large estate, a business that will continue to operate, lots of real property, or if the spouse of the injured individual is incapacitated. In other words, if you feel that either you or your spouse may be incapacitated at some point and after the passing of the other, then a trust with a specific trustee is good idea.

But if you have an average size estate, than a trust may not be necessary. And if you are creating a living trust simply in order to avoid probate, this is not a good idea. First, you may not be able to avoid probate simply because a trust was created. If there is any real property outside of the trust, then probate will still be necessary to clear title. Second, in order to truly avoid the potential for probate, every single property must be listed as an asset of the trust and held in the name of the trust, which may require the transfer of title, which in turn may create legal fees similar to those generated by probate.

If you are going to utilize a trust, an assignment of trust is also a good idea. An assignment of trust is a legal document, usually done concurrently with a trust, that indicates more specifically that all properties both real and personal of the drafters are thereby assigned to the trust.

A will.

Always a good idea. It doesn’t matter if you have a trust or not, have a will drafted. If you do have a trust, a simple “pour over will” can be utilized and is a good idea. A “pour over will” is simply a will that “pours over” all assets of the decedent  into the trust. And have your will drafted by an attorney who specializes in wills and estates and get it done right. It’s the best money you will ever spend.

Before you have your will drawn up spend a considerable amount of time deciding how you want it structured – i.e., who gets what. Your will represents your intent. So make sure it truly does.

And once you have thought about it, hired a competent attorney to draft it, discussed it in detail with your attorney, and had it drafted, don’t change it. Provide in the document for unforeseen deaths of heirs and subsequent heirs. This will ensure that once your will is created, it doesn’t need to be altered.

If you do have to alter your will, destroy the old one, draft a new one, and again make sure it is done professionally and as you want it.

Powers of attorney.

General powers of attorney and medical powers of attorney are excellent ideas and should be utilized by everyone regardless whether they utilize a will or a trust or both. And again, make sure these are done by an attorney specializing in this service.

Books have been written on this subject and there are many good ones out their if you want more information.

Good luck.

Poultry Plants Get To Police Self

Chicken processing plants now get to act as their own inspectors.

Chicken processing plants now get to act as their own inspectors.

As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle and other media outlets, the US Department of Agriculture has released new poultry-inspection rules that will adversely affect workplace safety.

According to the New York Times, the executive director of Food & Water Watch, a food and worker safety advocacy group, if a plant has an inspector on the assembly line at all, that inspector will have to inspect 2.33 birds every second for potentially harmful defects.

Further, others have stated that there are no accompanying worker-safety regulations designed to address the stress and injuries often suffered by workers due to the repetitive motion involved in the work at these plants.

And animal-rights and welfare organizations were also highly critical of the new rules.

The rules announced on Thursday work like this: poultry plant operators will now have the option of conducting inspections of their line for harmful defects in the birds themselves, without the supervision of an Agriculture Department inspector. The plants will be allowed to turn out 140 birds per minute. But if a plant doesn’t want to make their own inspections, an agent would remain on the line to inspect 140 birds a minute for flaws, contamination, feces or any other defect that would render the product unacceptable.

Various groups in favor or worker safety and food safety are exploring ways of blocking the new rules.

Hamburgers anyone?

Difficulty With Brain Injury And Brain Science

The difficulty understanding and predicting and treating brain injuries resides in the difficulties with brain science.

Recently Professor Gary Marcus wrote an excellent Op-Ed for the New York Times, The Trouble With Brain Science (7/12/14), discussing the limitations with the current working model of the brain and the difficulties in the filed of neuroscience.

These difficulties are evidenced in an open letter from hundreds of neuroscientists to the European Commission regarding the Human Brain Project. The scientists assert that the project is “overly narrow” and not “well conceived.”  The Human Brain Project is a $1.6 Billion effort at creating a computer simulation and mapping of the human brain. It is founded and backed by the European Commission.

The controversy as explained by Professor Marcus is not so much that these scientists are against the project, but that many cannot agree on the best approach for the project because many cannot agree on how the brain actually works.

These difficulties and ever evolving ideas about the brain are seen in our changing theories of depression and how SSRIs work, in the alleged cause for alleged biological markers of diseases such as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD/ADHD), learning disabilities, and theories on how the brain sustains injury and implements recovery from a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Professor Marcus asserts in his article that what is needed is a “bridge.” A bridge in this context would be something that connects two separate scientific theories. In this case, neuroscience and psychology. That bridge and the deeper and more accurate understanding of how the brain works, that it would generate, would serve victims of brain injuries and strokes just as it would serve any involved or touched by the field of brain science.

When someone sustains a traumatic brain injury of any level of severity, some recover better than others. This is no more apparent than in the realm of concussions or mild traumatic brain injuries (MTBI).

After a concussion some injury victims exhibit symptoms immediately and some do not. Some only demonstrate symptoms months after the initial injury or trauma and some do not. Some injury victims sustain severe trauma with little to no post injury symptoms while others sustain serious and long term deficits that result from seemingly mild trauma or a slight initial injury.

The reason science cannot explain these discrepancies or predict with any accuracy the level of deficit and disability resulting from a brain injury, resides in the controversy presented by Professor Marcus. In other words, we are not at all certain about how the brain really works.

In the end, what is needed, as Professor Marcus points out, is more money spent on finding that bridge and connecting the two areas of science. This will better serve neuroscience, brain injury victims, and us all.


New Concussion Guidelines for Children

kids playing footballIf your child is injured and suffers a concussion, also known as a mild traumatic brain injury or MTBI, often they are told to rest and take it easy for a couple of days. But according to new research, this is nowhere near enough time for recovery.

According to a study produced by Canadian researchers, children who sustain an MTBI or concussion need much more rest and recovery time than adults.

The research was conducted by Ontario medical officials in collaboration with the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation. The researchers evaluated 2,000 patients and 4,000 academic papers in order to produce the new guidelines for children ages 5 to 18.

The guidelines require as much as 30 days of rest including no physical activity or even watching television or playing video games. Further, if a young athlete suffers a concussion of any grade during a game or practice she should be removed from play, evaluated immediately, and kept out of the rest of the game or practice regardless of the evaluation.

We have discussed signs and symptoms or concussions or TBI before and those can be reviewed on our website by clicking here or here for our pages on concussions and traumatic brain injuries.

If you would like to read more about the new guidelines coming out of Canada or related topics you can do so at The Globe and Mail an Ontario online publication.

Brain Injury Study Shows Increased Risk For Dementia

Brain Injury - San Francisco Injury AttorneyA new brain injury study published recently in the journal Neurology and conducted by the military found a 60% increase in the risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia among veterans who had suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Here is how the study was conducted: the medical records of 188,764 veterans from 2000 to 2003 were examined for evidence of dementia. The subjects ranged in ages from 55 and older. Out of the initial number, 1,229 had a TBI diagnosis (i.e., had sustained a traumatic brain injury in the past). And out of that number, 16% developed one of the various forms of dementia including Alzheimer’s disease. Among the group that did not sustain a TBI, the corresponding percentage was 10%.

The data is interesting but not new. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have presented for some time that TBIs lead to an increase risk in dementia. What is troubling about the study is that the researchers did not classify the TBIs in terms of severity – mild, moderate, or sever. And within mild traumatic brain injuries, also known as concussions, there are grades – I, II, and III.

We don’t know if most of those subjects had sever TBIs that may have included serious trauma and even penetration of the skull, or if a significant number had more moderate concussions. This is important for several reasons.

First, while all TBIs are serious and potentially debilitating, MTBIs are much more common and often go underreported by soldiers and athletes and personal injury victims in falls and car accidents. Second, because MTBIs are so much more common, evidence that they lead to an increase risk of dementia would be useful information for parents, athletes, sports trainers, physicians, and manufacturers of safety equipment and automobiles.

If you would like to read more about the study you can do so by clicking here for the LA Times article.