Medical marijuana is legal in California, but the idea that the drug has medicinal benefits remains fairly controversial. Despite this, many seriously ill people have reported substantial health benefits from consuming marijuana.

A study from UCLA may add brain injury to the list of conditions that marijuana can treat. Researchers at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute say that having THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, in your body when you suffer a traumatic head injury may help you survive.

The study focused on 446 cases of TBI, each of which involved about the same severity of injury. Of those brain injury patients, 82 tested positive for traces of THC in their systems.

The brain injuries studied by the authors were quite severe, and several patients died. But there was a significant difference in the survival rate between those with THC in their bodies and those without it. Of the latter victims, 11.5 percent died. Just 2.4 percent of those who tested positive for marijuana did not survive.

A psychologist for a local news station said that this shows a connection between THC and reduced effects from brain trauma. The study does not provide a reason why the ingredients of marijuana might provide protection to the brain. That will have to be the subject of future research.

Perhaps someday, medical marijuana will be used to treat someone who comes to the emergency room with a brain injury, to reduce the long-term damage. A severe TBI can be permanently disabling, as well as quite painful and distressing.