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Frequency and Quality of Return to Study Following Traumatic Brain Injury

Willmott, Catherine PhD; Ponsford, Jennie PhD; Downing, Marina PhD; Carty, Meagan BAS (Hons)

Section Editor(s): Caplan, Bruce PhD, ABPP; Bogner, Jennifer PhD, ABPP

Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation: May/June 2014 - Volume 29 - Issue 3 - p 248–256
doi: 10.1097/HTR.0000000000000014
Original Articles

Objective: To examine the frequency and experience of return to secondary or tertiary study over a 10-year period following traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Participants: A group of 295 students with moderate to severe TBI followed prospectively.

Setting: Epworth HealthCare TBI outpatient rehabilitation program follow-up clinic 1 to 10 years postinjury.

Main Outcome Measures: Frequency of return to study. Also, for a subset, changes in course enrollment, utilization of additional educational supports, and experience of return to study postinjury.

Results: Of those studying preinjury, 295 attended the follow-up clinic appointments, with 167 (56%) having returned to study. Those who did not return to study had significantly longer posttraumatic amnesia duration. The cross-sectional follow-up revealed that 60.4% were studying at 1 year postinjury, 37.5% at 2 years postinjury, 50.0% at 3 years postinjury, 31.1% at 5 years postinjury, and 2.0% at 10 years postinjury. Many had migrated into employment. A subsample of 95 participants reported on their educational experience. Of those, 28.7% changed their course enrollment from full-time to part-time. While supports such as tuition and special consideration were greatly increased postinjury, students reported the proportion of subjects passed of 79.0%. However, they experienced cognitive difficulties and fatigue and felt less satisfied with their studies.

Conclusions: Return to study was relatively successful; however, this was associated with the experience of fatigue and need for far greater effort, assistance and reduced study hours, and somewhat less overall satisfaction.

Monash Psychology Centre, School of Psychology & Psychiatry (Drs Willmott, Ponsford, and Downing), Monash-Epworth Rehabilitation Research Centre (Drs Willmott, Ponsford, and Downing and Ms Carty), and National Trauma Research Institute (Dr Ponsford), Monash University, Victoria, Australia.

Corresponding Author: Catherine Willmott, PhD, Monash Psychology Centre, School of Psychology & Psychiatry, Monash University, Bldg 1/270 Ferntree Gully Rd, Notting Hill Vic 3168, Australia. (

This project was supported by the Victorian Government Transport Accident Commission and the Institute for Safety Compensation and Recovery Research. The authors thank Professor John Olver, Dr Michael Ponsford, and Dr Rose Acher, who conducted the follow-up interviews with participants. The authors also thank all participants involved in this project, who gave so generously of their time.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

© 2014 Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins