Brain Injuries and Head Injury Questions
What is a TBI?
A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a blow, jolt, or bump to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain.
What is a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury?
A person with a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) may remain conscious or may experience a loss of consciousness for a few seconds or minutes. Other symptoms of mild TBI include headache; confusion; lightheadedness; dizziness; blurred vision or tired eyes; ringing in the ears; a bad taste in the mouth; fatigue or lethargy; a change in sleep patterns; behavioral or mood changes; and trouble with memory, concentration, attention, or thinking.
What is a Moderate or Severe Brain Injury?
A person with a moderate or severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) may show these same symptoms, but may also have a headache that gets worse or does not go away; repeated vomiting or nausea; convulsions or seizures; an inability to awaken from sleep; dilation of one or both pupils of the eyes; slurred speech; weakness or numbness in the extremities; loss of coordination; and increased confusion, restlessness, or agitation.
What is a Closed Head Injury?
A closed head injury is a type of severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by movement of the brain within the skull. Causes may include falls, motor vehicle crashes, or being struck by or with an object.
What is an Open or Penetrating Head Injury?
A open or penetrating head injury is a type of severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by a foreign object entering the skull. Causes may include firearm injuries or being struck with a sharp object.
What is a Concussion?
A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury that is caused by a blow to the head or body, a fall, or another injury that jars or shakes the brain inside the skull. You don’t have to pass out (lose consciousness) to have a concussion. Some people will have obvious symptoms of a concussion, such as passing out or forgetting what happened right before the injury, where others won’t. With rest, most people fully recover from a concussion, and recovery can take hours or weeks.
In rare cases concussions cause more serious problems. Repeated concussions or a severe concussion may require surgery or lead to long-lasting problems with movement, learning, or speech.
What are Some of the Symptoms of a Brain Injury?
A person with a brain injury can experience a variety of symptoms. Common symptoms of a traumatic brain injury can include, but are not limited to:
- Spinal fluid coming out of the ears or nose
- Loss of consciousness (may not occur in some concussion cases)
- Dilated or unequal size of pupils
- Vision changes (blurred vision or seeing double, not able to tolerate bright light, loss of eye movement, blindness)
- Dizziness/balance problems
- Respiratory failure
- Coma (not alert and unable to respond to others) or semicomatose state
- Paralysis, difficulty moving body parts, weakness, poor coordination
- Slow pulse
- Slow breathing rate, with an increase in blood pressure
- Lethargy (sluggish, sleepy, gets tired easily)
- Ringing in the ears or changes in ability to hear
- Difficulty with thinking skills (memory problems, poor judgment, poor attention span)
- Inappropriate emotional responses (irritability, easily frustrated, inappropriate crying or laughing)
- Difficulty speaking, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing
- Body numbness or tingling
- Loss of bowel control or bladder control
How Many People Sustain a Brain Injury?
1.7 million people sustain a traumatic brain injury each year.
What are the Leading Causes of TBI?
Traumatic brain injuries are caused by falls (35%), car crashes (17%), workplace accidents (16%), assaults (10%), and other accidents (12%).
How Do You Treat a Brain Injury?
No two people are exactly alike, and therefore, no two brain injuries are exactly alike. For some, brain injury is the start of a lifelong disease process. The injury requires access to a full continuum of medically necessary treatment and community-based support furnished by interdisciplinary teams of qualified and specialized clinicians working in accredited programs and appropriate settings. Changes and improvement continue, although sometimes they are so slight they are hard to notice. It can take days, weeks, and years to see improvement. Some of the deficits may remain for a lifetime while others may improve to the point that they are no longer a major factor in day-to-day living.
How to Prevent Traumatic Brain Injuries?
- Auto Accidents: Choose a car, truck, or SUV with a good crash test safety rating and properly maintain your vehicle. Check your tires regularly and replace as needed. Wear your seatbelt and make sure that children are properly restrained (child safety seat, booster seat). Follow all traffic safety rules (speed limit, traffic signs) and be aware of inclement weather conditions and road construction. Also eliminate driver distractions (texting and driving, talking on cell phone, eating while driving) and never drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Gun and Firearm Accidents: Children and teenagers are curious and adventurous, which can lead to accidental shootings if proper safety measures are not taken. Every day, approximately five children are injured or killed on a nationwide basis as a result of handguns. Adults with firearms should keep all firearms stored unloaded in a locked cabinet or safe and they should store bullets in a separate secure location.
- Slip and Fall Accidents: Remove tripping hazards such as small area rugs and loose electrical cords. Ensure handrails are in place and in working order. Where appropriate, install window guards or child safety gates. Use non-slip mats in bathroom near toilet, shower, and tub areas and install grab bars for easy entrance and exit. Use an appropriate ladder for reaching items up high. Be aware of weather conditions, uneven curbs, and construction areas. Wear appropriate footwear for your activity (shoes, sneakers, flip-flops).
- Sports-Related Accidents: Concussions are the most common brain injuries and are often the result of a hit or fall that causes temporary brain function problems (headache, loss of consciousness, and seizures). Medical professionals refer to concussions as mildly traumatic brain injury (MTBI). Using the proper protective equipment is the best way to prevent these. Helmets should be worn for any contact or risky sport (football, hockey, lacrosse, baseball, biking, skateboarding, and horseback riding).
- Recreational Accidents: Make sure children’s playground equipment (swing set, slide, bounce house, trampoline) is not broken or outdated and properly maintained (use mulch and sand instead of concrete). Ensure that swimming pools have the necessary fencing and alarm systems. Make sure recreational activities are age appropriate (ATV’s, jet skis, parasailing) and that the appropriate safety equipment is used. Never leave young children alone at play; always make sure there is proper adult supervision.
- Chocking and Strangling Accidents: Choking can cause brain damage from lack of oxygen to the brain. People should watch what they eat, especially young kids. Children under three should avoid foods like hot dogs, grapes, and hard candy and they should not play with toys that have small, removable parts.