“It’s been a long hard road”: challenges faced in the first three years following traumatic brain injury

Marina G. Downing, Amelia J. Hicks, Sandy Braaf, Daniel B. Myles, Belinda J. Gabbe, Jennie Ponsford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Purpose: There is limited qualitative research exploring challenges experienced following severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). We investigated challenges to recovery identified by individuals who sustained severe TBI three years earlier or their close others (COs), as well as suggestions for managing these challenges. Materials and methods: Nine participants with TBI and 16 COs completed semi-structured interviews. Using reflexive thematic analysis, challenges were identified across several timeframes (i.e., at the injury, acute care, inpatient rehabilitation, outpatient rehabilitation, and at home/other location). Results: Challenges experienced across all timeframes included: lack of information and poor communication, pre-existing conditions, missed injuries, and issues with medical staff, and continuity of care. From acute care onwards, there were TBI-related consequences, issues with coping and emotional adjustment, negative outlook, insufficient treatment, lack of support for COs, and issues with compensation and funding for rehabilitation needs. Some challenges were unique to a specific timeframe (e.g., over-stimulating ward setting during acute care, and limited or unsupportive families once injured individuals went home). Suggestions for managing some of the challenges were provided (e.g., information provision, having peer supports). Conclusion: Suggestions should be considered to promote successful outcomes following severe TBI.IMPLICATIONS FOR REHABILITATION Recovery following a severe traumatic brain injury can be hindered by challenges, such as poor communication, limited information provision, injury-related consequences, limited services and emotional support for the injured individual and their Close Others, and a need for education of the broader community about traumatic brain injury. Suggestions for managing these challenges (e.g., peer supports; services closer to home) could be used to inform clinical guidelines that could be used in a rehabilitation context. These suggestions ultimately aim to improve the post-injury experience and outcomes of individuals with traumatic brain injury and their Close Others.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
JournalDisability and Rehabilitation
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Dec 2021


  • challenges
  • outcome
  • qualitative study
  • recovery
  • Traumatic brain injury

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