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Self-report: Extent of Recovery and Obstacles to Recovery

Categories: Rehabilitation and Recovery

The Question

As time passes, how do individuals with traumatic brain injury describe the extent of their recovery, and what do they identify as keeping them from a full recovery?

Past Studies

Past Studies state that traumatic brain injury can affect the way individuals think, act, feel, and move their bodies. Individuals that have difficulty moving their bodies can need help from another person, extra time, or an assistive device to perform self-care tasks, such as dressing and showering or to move their body from place to place, as with walking or using a wheelchair. Past studies reveal that individuals with traumatic brain injury are more aware of physical problems than of difficulties with social, behavioral, or thinking skills. Researchers and healthcare providers believe that problems with behavior, interacting with others in social situations, and thinking skills, such as memory and problem solving, tend to limit how independently individuals with traumatic brain injury live more than physical difficulties do.

Traditionally, the rehabilitation team focused on goals they felt were necessary to assist an individual to obtain the highest degree of independent living. It had been the belief that individuals with brain injuries may not have the insight or thought process to fully understand or identify what functional areas should be the priority in rehabilitation. In recent years, it has been recognized that in addition to focusing on what the rehabilitation team feels is valued, they should also find out what is important to the individual with a traumatic brain injury regarding rehabilitation goal setting and treatment. Research is lacking regarding towhat extent individuals with traumatic brain injuries perceive they recover and what they identify as being in the way of a full recovery.

This Study

This Study included 157 individuals with a broad range of traumatic brain injury severity levels, but who mostly experienced moderate traumatic brain injuries. The participants were surveyed to determine their perceptions about the extent of their recovery at one, six, and twelve months after their injury dates. A subgroup was additionally asked to identify what they felt was keeping them from a full recovery.

During the one-year period, the participants’ concerns about physical problems decreased and those related to thinking skills increased. Nevertheless, they reported that physical problems were their biggest obstacle to making a full recovery. The researchers state that not only are individuals with traumatic brain injury more aware of physical problems, but that they also place a greater importance on their role in recovery than do healthcare professionals. Overall, the participants reported that they felt they had improved over time. There was a wide range of opinions for how well they felt they had recovered over the one-year period.

Who May Be Affected By These Findings

Individuals with traumatic brain injuries and their loved ones, researchers, healthcare providers


The researchers suspect that the participants reported an increase in problems related to thinking skills over time as the participants returned to familiar settings, situations, and activities and gained better awareness of the impact of these problems.

Bottom Line

The individuals with traumatic brain injury reported that they felt they continued to recover over time. Overall, they reported that physical difficulties were the main problem that prevented them from a full recovery. As time passed and people returned to their usual activities, it appeared the participants became more aware of the impact of their difficulties with thinking skills.

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Find This Study


Powell, J.M., Machamer, J.E., Temkin, N. R., & Dikmen, S.S. (2001). Self-report of extent of recovery after traumatic brain injury: A longitudinal study. Archives of Physical Medicine Rehabilitation, 82, 1025-1030.


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