Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) afflicts about 1.4 million people annually with 50,000 suffering a fatal injury. Right now over 5 million Americans are living with the effects of TBI and need some sort of assistance just to get through the day.  Because TBI impacts an individual’s personality as well as his or her ability to function intellectually, emotionally, and physically, the damage it causes it affects everyone around the injured person, including family, friends, co-workers, and the world at large.

There are several different causes for traumatic brain injury, but most victims suffer one of these three types:

Open Head Injury

This involves an injury that exposes the brain by penetrating the skull. The penetration can be due to a bullet, stabbing or a blow from a heavy object.

Closed Head Injury

This type of injury may occur due to a fall, car crash or a severe shaking. While the skull may remain intact the damage can be more extensive than that experienced with an open head injury.

Deceleration Injuries – (Diffuse Axonal Injury)

This type of injury is usually caused by a rapid deceleration of the body as it moves forward. The body stops but the brain bounces back and forth inside the skull.  This can cause nerve fibers to be pulled apart, shredded, and permanently destroyed within the brain. Patients sustain this type of injury in vehicle crashes and from being severely shaken.

What are the Symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injury?

In many cases, TBI causes an immediate loss of consciousness due to concussion. But it is possible to have concussion and still remain conscious.

For example, the injury suffered by skier Natasha Richardson Although she seemed only slightly injured from a skiing accident and didn’t lose consciousness until hours after the injury, she ultimately succumbed to her injuries. This tragic incident is an unfortunate example of why you should seek treatment from a physician, go to an emergency room, or call 911 if you sustain a blow to the head.  Below is a summary of what to look for:

In mild traumatic brain injuries the signs and symptoms of concussion may include:

  • A brief period of unconsciousness
  • Amnesia for events immediately before and after the injury
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness or loss of balance
  • Sensory problems, such as blurred vision, ringing in the ears or a bad taste in the mouth
  • Mood changes
  • Memory or concentration problems

 

In moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries these additional symptoms may occur:

  • Persistent headache
  • Repeated vomiting or nausea
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • 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
  • Profound confusion
  • Agitation, combativeness

 

Due to their lack of the communication skills, young children may manifest the symptoms of headaches, sensory problems and confusion as follows:

  • Loss of appetite, refusal to eat
  • Crankiness
  • Altered sleep patterns and poor school performance
  • Loss of interest in favorite toys or activities

 

Anyone suffering a blow to the head followed by these symptoms should seek immediate medical care:

  • Convulsions
  • Weakness or numbness in the extremities
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Slurred speech