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National Academy of Neuropsychology Conference Update

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to address neuropsycholgists at the National Academy of Neuropsychology's (NAN) annual conference on the interaction between attorneys and neuropsycholigsts in the courtroom and the use of neuropsychological testing to prove and/or disprove traumatic brain injury. I was honored to be the only attorney asked to address this prestigious body.

The focus of my presentation was the misue of these tests in the courtroom and the limitations that these tests have in assessing brain damage and its consequences in the real world setting.  My emphasis was that life itself is the best neuropsycholgoical test and that we should be listening to not only what the patient says, but what their family, friends, employers and other members of the community have observed about the individual's behavior and performance level since their accident.  I also discussed the misuse of "malingering tests" and the limitations that these instruments have in assessing effort and injury.  As I discussed with the group, it is my belief that these "malingering" tests are misued and are not scientifically valid.  I also discussed my excitement with the advances in neuroimaging and its ability to document structural lesions and other brain abnormalities, which we previously were unable to see.  I believe that the future in forensic traumatic brain injury work will be increased emphasis on the use of these imaging studies to determine brain damage.

I also had the chance to participate in discussions concerning concussions sustained by athletes and the exciting findings of recent studies sponsored in part by the academy and the national hockey league.

Research was presented concerning findings obtained from a review of over seven hundred and fifty hockey players who have sustained concussions since 1997. The data shows that upward of one third of concussed players have normal physical findings but perform abnormally when administered neuropsychological tests which are compared to pre injury base line tests.  This finding is very significant because it shows that we cannot rely on the absence of complaints by players concerning such things as headaches or dizziness in making important return to play decisions.

A full report of the sports concussion seminar can be found in an excellent article by Peter Keating on ESPN



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