By Stephanie Stahl

By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — We hear a lot about brain injuries among athletes, but they happen every day in all sorts of accidents, and they can be difficult to diagnose and treat. Some of the biggest advances are happening here in Philadelphia. Health reporter Stephanie Stahl learned more Friday at a special event called Mind Your Brain.

READ MORE: Several People Injured After Tree Falls During West Philadelphia High School Reunion Party At Fairmount Park

A conference at Penn Medicine brought together survivors and doctors to discuss traumatic brain injuries and concussions. It included a special guest speaker, a war hero with a message of hope.

“Incredibly powerful blasts…”

Major Ben Richards survived a suicide bomber explosion in Iraq. He was inside a tank left charred.

“We all experienced these impact concussions,” he said.

The war veteran is calm and matter-of-fact now, almost a decade later, as he still recovers from two traumatic brain injuries.

“Evidence of destruction in the brain,” Richards said.

“All from bomb blasts?” asked CBS3 health reporter Stephanie Stahl.

“Yes,” he said.

READ MORE: Man Struck, Killed By Vehicle In Northeast Philadelphia: Police

Richards says his injuries were invisible but caused serious emotional outbursts that took a toll on his family.

“You just never knew when one day you’d explode and become a monster,” Richards said. “I was ruining my wife’s life.”

His life has turned around after several cutting-edge therapies, including electromagnetic stimulation.

“The brain can have an ability to kind of rewire,” said Dr. Douglas Smith, the director of Penn’s Center for Brain Injury and Repair. He says research is showing brain recovery isn’t limited.

“A lot of people are worried that if they don’t recover quickly that that might be the end of the road,” Dr. Smith said. “But it turns out that you can have recovery years after injury. It may not ever stop. We really don’t know the limits.”

Dr. Smith was part of Penn’s Mind Your Brain conference, and Major Richards was the keynote speaker, sharing with other brain injury survivors how recovery can work.

“After seven years, I’ve come home,” Richards said. “My wife has someone she can love again.

“The important message is there is hope.”

Center for Brain Injury and Repair at the University of Pennsylvania

MORE NEWS: Philadelphia Weather: Week Starts With Muggy Conditions Before Cold Front Arrives

http://www.med.upenn.edu/cbir/

Stephanie Stahl