What is a Traumatic Brain Injury?

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is an acquired brain injury from sudden trauma that causes damage to the brain tissues. Symptoms of a TBI can be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the extent of the damage of the brain. Approximately 1.7 million people sustain a TBI annually.

A TBI is caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain. The severity of a TBI may range from mild to severe. Mild damage leads to a brief change in mental status or consciousness, whereas severe damage leads to an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia after the injury.

Treatment of after a TBI requires an interdisciplinary approach, a client may be under the care of the following

  • Emergency Room and Hospital Physicians at onset
  • Primary Care Physician
  • Neurologist
  • Nursing
  • Occupational, Physical, and Speech therapists
  • Social Workers and Case Managers
  • Other specialists, such as an ophthalmologist or gastroenterologist
Disabilities after a TBI vary based on the severity and location of the injury as well as the age and general health of the client. A few common issues that arise include;

  • Cognition problems (poor memory, thinking, reasoning)
  • Altered sensory processing (issues with sight, hearing, touch ,taste, smell)
  • Communication deficits (expression, speech, comprehension)
  • Behavioral and/or mental health disorders
  • Abnormal tone in the trunk of extremities (muscle are too tight or too loose)
  • Impaired Balance, Walking, and Coordination
As people recover from severe brain injury, they usually pass through various phases of recovery. Recovery can stop at any one of these phases noted below. Almost all people who reach the confused state go on to make further progress.

  • 1) Coma – A complete state of unconsciousness, no eye opening, no speech, unable to follow directions, no purposeful movement
  • 2) Vegetative State – return of sleep-wake cycle, eye opening, no speech or purposeful movement, may moan or cry,
  • 3) Minimally Conscious State – follow simple instructions, communicates yes or no and few phrases, may cry or laugh
  • 4) Confusional State – restlessness, disorientation, impaired attention and memory.