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TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) occurs when an external mechanical force causes brain dysfunction. It usually results from a violent blow or jolt to the head or body. Common events causing TBI include car accidents, falls, sports injuries, and violence.

In some cases there may be trauma to the brain without a direct impact to the head. For example, the impact of a car accident can bring the head to a sudden stop, causing the brain to slam into the skull. This is referred to as a “Coup-Contracoup” injury, or “Acceleration-Deceleration” injury. In this type of injury the brain bounces back and forth in the skull, causing damage to the brain where it hits the skull. Because it bounces back into the opposite side of the skull, the opposite side of the brain can also be injured.

The severity of a TBI may range from mild, which involves a brief change in mental status or consciousness, to severe, where there is an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia after the injury. TBI can cause a wide range of functional short- or long-term changes affecting thinking (memory and reasoning) , sensation (touch, taste, smell) and language (communication, expression, understanding or emotions (depression, anxiety, personality changes). TBI can also cause epilepsy and increase the risk for conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and other brain disorders that become more prevalent with age.

The most common example of mild TBI is a concussion, usually caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or a fall or a blow to the body that causes the head and brain to move quickly back and forth. Mild TBI can have wide-ranging physical and psychological effects. Some signs or symptoms may appear immediately after the traumatic event, while others may appear days or weeks later. The signs and symptoms of mild TBI may include:

Physical symptoms

– Loss of consciousness for a few seconds to a few minutes
– No loss of consciousness, but a state of being dazed, confused or disoriented
– Headache
– Nausea or vomiting
– Fatigue or drowsiness
– Difficulty sleeping
– Sleeping more than usual
– Dizziness or loss of balance

Sensory symptoms

– Sensory problems, such as blurred vision, ringing in the ears, a bad taste in the mouth or changes in the ability to smell
– Sensitivity to light or sound

Cognitive or mental symptoms

– Memory or concentration problems
– Mood changes or mood swings
– Feeling depressed or anxious

Even though this type of TBI is called “mild”, the effect on the family and the injured person can be devastating.

As recognized by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, anyone with signs of TBI should receive medical attention as soon as possible. Because little can be done to reverse the initial brain damage caused by trauma, medical personnel try to stabilize an individual with TBI and focus on preventing further injury.