What is a Traumatic Brain Injury?

A Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) refers to the amount of damage done to the brain tissue resulting from a closed or open head injury. The Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) is most often used by doctors to determine the category of the TBI in which the “severity” ranges from mild (briefly disoriented/loss of consciousness) to moderate to severe (unconscious for an extended period of time).

No two brain injuries are the same. However, because this injury affects the brain, major lifestyle (and possibly personality) changes might occur. For example, you or someone you know who suffered a TBI may now require either short-term or long-term care. In the following article, we will list the initial aspects of a Traumatic Brain Injury.

What causes a TBI?

A blow to the head can occur from a variety of accidents. Some examples include:

  • A motor vehicle crash
  • Sports injuries
  • A fall
  • Assaults
  • A bicycle crash
  • Military service-related injuries
  • Child abuse/domestic violence incidents
  • The skull being struck by a blunt or heavy object

 Common Symptoms After a Mild TBI

  • Headaches
  • Bruises—When the head is hit, the brain can be shaken around inside the skull. If the shaking was hard enough, the brain can get bruised as it hits the skull. Just like bruises you might get on your arms or legs, these go away in time.
  • Swelling— If there are lots of bruises, there also might be swelling. Swelling takes longer than bruising to return to normal.
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and sensitivity to light and sound
  • Snapped nerve fibers—The brain is made of millions of cells called neurons that are connected to each other by long, thin fibers called axons. If the TBI is serious enough, some of these axons can snap or break during a concussion. When this happens, different cells in your brain cannot communicate properly with each other. With time, however, these will heal and many patients have a complete recovery.
  • Broken blood vessels—Like any other part of the body, the brain has blood vessels in it. If a TBI is very serious, some of these blood vessels can tear and bleed soon after the injury. Usually, the bleeding stops on its own and the blood vessels heal like any other cut does.

It’s important to note that these symptoms may not occur right away and could appear days or even weeks after the accident.

Determining the level of the TBI

  1. Severity of initial injury
  2. Rate/completeness of physiological recovery
  3. Functions affected such as cognitive, motor, sensory, verbal, and emotion
  4. Meaning of dysfunction in the individual’s life
  5. Resources available to aid recovery of function

Where can you go for support?

  • Brain Injury Association of Michigan (BIAMI) Helpline: 800-772-4323 or www.biami.org.
  • Michigan Department of Community Health TBI website, www.michigan.gov/tbi, has many free educational materials including:
    • Michigan Resource Guide for Persons with Traumatic Brain Injury and Their Families, a 96-page directory of resources that provides information about TBI, the signs of TBI and a wide variety of services that are available.
  • Dobson Healthcare: 866-866-8984 or www.dobsonhealthcare.com.

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Photo: Chlossser, M. (2015). Slip and Fall Accidents the Leading Cause of Traumatic Brain Injury. Retrieved February 10, 2016.