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September 26, 2015
by Henry M. Pittman, MA

Tracy Morgan: The New Face of Traumatic Brain Injury

September 26, 2015 10:00 by Henry M. Pittman, MA  [About the Author]

The world received a pleasant surprise during the 2015 67th Annual Emmy Awards that honors prime time television.  It had nothing to do with who won outstanding writing, directing, or acting award. The spot light was on the last presenter of the last award, which once again, the surprise had nothing to do with the category, but the presenter, Tracy Morgan. It has been over a year since he had appeared in Hollywood (Rose, 2015). He has been out of the spotlight not due to unable to obtain work in film, TV, or stand up. Tracy’s absence is due to recovery from a motor vehicle accident that killed one, injured many, and left him with traumatic brain injury along with other injuries.

Humble Beginnings

Tracy Morgan was born in Brooklyn, NY in a poverty induce area. He dropped out of school and began selling drugs which he was not his calling. After he left selling drugs alone he began doing comedy on the streets and evenly getting paid for it. As time passed he was performing on stages, night clubs, and having small parts in films. Saturday Night Live was Tracy Morgan’s big break where he made audiences laugh from 1996 to 2003. Later on he would return to television a part of a hit show called 30 Rock. Tracy was nominated for his role of Tracy Jordon on 30 Rock for an Image Award I 2007 and 2008. In 2009 he was nominated for an Emmy for his work in 30 Rock. The show ran from 2006-2013. To date, Tracy has been in 27 movies and 17 Television shows. On June 6, 2014, Tracy’s life would change for ever.

Results from Motor Vehicle Crash

A broken leg and broken nose were the physical damages done by the accident (Goyette, 2014).  A major area of damage that is unseen by on lookers that Tracy sustained was a Traumatic Brain Injury. “Approximately 3.5 million people in the United State sustain a TBI every year (Williams, Rapport, Mills, & Hanks, 2014, p. 298.) According to Williams et al., (2014) 5.3 million people who have sustained a brain injury live with injury related deficits which place them as a disability. A traumatic brain injury can interfere with a person’s ability to think, move, and show emotions. At the Emmy’s Tracy was able to walk by himself, however his body movement, upper body position, and facial affect was not the same. Many individuals who sustained a brain injury can and do present very well to the public. In other words, the injury has not interfered with their social skills, however neurologically their cognition is not the same. Cognitive changes that place which are the most salient features after a traumatic brain injury are impairments of attention, learning and memory, frontal executive functions, and language and communication (Silver, McAllister, & Yodofsky, 2011).

Cognitive Deficits

Attention and traumatic brain injury goes hand and hand in many cases, but not all. This is where the individual may demonstrate the inability to concentrate. The person may sustain attention, however the length of time has decrease from before the injury. Memory is a big impairment after a brain injury. Most individuals who sustained a traumatic brain injury will not remember the actual accident or event along with months before. Their memory is wiped clear like a hard drive that crashed. Long term memory is fine and is still intact. Beyond not remember the accident, some post-accident memory problems may be demonstrated such as forgetting to turn the stove off, pick the kids, or pay bills. Frontal Executive Function consists of “establishing relevant goals and planning, initiating and sequencing stimuli, conceptual reasoning, decision making, as well as the activities of self-monitoring and self-regulating (Silver et al., 2011, p.282).”  Language and communication impairments can be seen and heard as aphasia. Aphasia which is when a person has the inability “to identify objects and proper names, frequent paraphasias and circumlocution, and preserved comprehension and repetition (Silver et al., 2011, p.285).” Treatment is available for these cognitive impairments where people who sustained a brain injury will focus on compensatory strategies for their cognitive deficits.

Quality of Life Facts Post Traumatic Brain Injury

Each person copes with life tragedies differently and life after sustaining a traumatic brain injury can be challenging. Williams et al., (2014) conducted a study and found three interrelated factors regarding a post traumatic brain injury quality of life which are life satisfaction, community integration, and emotional distress. In other words, if a person who sustained a brain injury is able to psychological adjust and cope with what has happen to them. It is more likely that they will engaged in community activities due to being psychologically stable. By the being psychological stable, and engaging in community activities, life satisfaction increases as well. Which the same can be said just the opposite if the individual presents with emotional distress.

Tracy Morgan is now among millions of Americans that have sustained and brain injury and is adjusting to a new way of life. Tracy Morgan in his speech thanked the doctors that help him get back well. The reason he has been able to make a good recovery is due to time. When treatment is administered early after traumatic brain injury, the better the prognosis. However, psychologically stability is a key factor for treatment and for quality of life post treatment.


Goyette, B. (2014, June 6). Tracy Morgan In Critical Condition After Car Crash (UPDATE). Retrived from

Rice, L. (2015, September 22). Even Tracy Morgan’s pal Tina Fey didn’t know he was appearing at the Emmys. Retrieved from

Rose, L. (2015, September 21). Emmy Surprise: Tracy Morgan gets emotional about his big Hollywood return. The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved from

Tracy Morgan (n.d.) In Wikipedia. Retrieved on 09/24/2015, from

Silver, J.M., McAllister, T.W., & Yudofsky, S.C. (2011). Textbook of Traumatic Brain Injury, 2nd Edition. American Psychiatric Association 

About the Author

Henry M. Pittman Henry M. Pittman, MA

Henry M. Pittman came into the field of counseling through substance use disorders in the fall of 1997. He was a substance abuse tech at a hospital in Houston, TX and what he saw motivated him to take all the counseling hours needed to become a substance abuse counselor in 1998. Since then he has pursed the required education and knowledge to become a master level counselor and therapist.

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