What It Is

Traumatic brain injury (TBI), or intracranial injury, is an acquired condition that occurs after a sudden and traumatic blow to the head.  The force of impact does not necessarily need to be severe to be traumatic and cause significant injury. Some TBIs are considered penetrating injures, when an object pierces the skull and fragments enter the brain directly. In addition to direct impact injuries, when the head collides directly with an object, TBI can be caused by sudden acceleration (or deceleration), causing the brain to bounce inside the skull.  

The leading causes of TBI are automobile accidents, slip and falls, and violence. Recently, there has been an increased focus on impact sports causing concussions and TBI.


Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

  • No or limited loss of consciousness
  • Headaches 
  • Light headedness or dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Blurred vision
  • Bad taste in mouth
  • Ringing sound in ears
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep difficulties 
  • Mood swings
  • Trouble with memory, concentration, and thinking

Moderate to Severe Traumatic Brain Injury

  • Any of the above symptoms plus…
  • Repeat headaches that get worse or don’t go away
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Seizures
  • Slurred speech
  • Numbness in the extremities
  • Loss or difficulty with motor skills
  • Complete loss of muscle coordination
  • Difficulties swallowing

Treatments & Therapies

When TBI occurs, it is important to seek medical treatment immediately. In addition to the immediate injury, there are secondary injuries that continue to cause damage which occur over time and stabilizing a patient is of the utmost importance. According to the NIH, “Primary concerns include insuring proper oxygen supply to the brain and the rest of the body, maintaining adequate blood flow, and controlling blood pressure.”

Rehabilitation that involves individually tailored treatment programs in the areas of physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech/language therapy, physiatry (physical medicine), psychology/psychiatry, and social support.

More from the NIH

Approximately half of severely head-injured patients will need surgery to remove or repair hematomas (ruptured blood vessels) or contusions (bruised brain tissue). Disabilities resulting from a TBI depend upon the severity of the injury, the location of the injury, and the age and general health of the individual. Some common disabilities include problems with cognition (thinking, memory, and reasoning), sensory processing (sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell), communication (expression and understanding), and behavior or mental health (depression, anxiety, personality changes, aggression, acting out, and social inappropriateness). More serious head injuries may result in stupor, an unresponsive state, but one in which an individual can be aroused briefly by a strong stimulus, such as sharp pain; coma, a state in which an individual is totally unconscious, unresponsive, unaware, and unarousable; vegetative state, in which an individual is unconscious and unaware of his or her surroundings, but continues to have a sleep-wake cycle and periods of alertness; and a persistent vegetative state (PVS), in which an individual stays in a vegetative state for more than a month.