Traumatic brain injury, sometimes referred to as TBI or brain trauma, is a sudden physical damage to the brain. It does not apply to brain injuries that are hereditary, congenital or degenerative, or brain injuries induced by birth trauma, toxic substances, or disease-producing organisms.
The American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine stated that the injury is manifested by one or more of the following:
- 1. loss of consciousness;
- 2. memory loss for events immediately before or after the accident;
- 3. alteration in mental state at the time of the accident (e.g., feeling dazed, disoriented, or confused);
- 4. focal neurological deficit(s) that may or may not be transient but where the severity of the injury does not exceed the following:
- a. loss of consciousness of approximately 30 minutes or less;
- b. after 30 minutes, an initial Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) of 13-15; and
- c. posttraumatic amnesia (PTA) not greater than 24 hours.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that in the United States, there are currently 5.3 million individuals suffering from a traumatic brain injury that will have life-long effects.
Traumatic Brain Injury
Most traumatic brain injuries are a result of falls, followed by motor vehicle accidents and Struck by/against events (i.e., an event where the victim's head was forcefully struck by or against an object). Many of the latter result in mild traumatic brain injuries (MTBIs) and are often sports or recreation-related. For example, a football concussion or football head injury could be an MTBI; however, repeated sports injury to the head--or a more severe hit to the head--can lead to a more serious traumatic brain injury.
Traumatic Brain Injury can be caused by shaking (as in Shaken Baby Syndrome), a direct blow to the head (concussion), or impact from a bullet, knife or other sharp object that forces hair, skin, bone and fragments from the object into the brain (penetration injury).
Closed Head Brain Injury
When a person receives an impact to the head from an outside force, but the skull does not fracture or displace this condition is termed a "closed head injury". The brain swells but has no place to expand, thus causing increased pressure within the skull which can force brain tissues to compress, causing further injury.
When a person suffers severe physical injuries, the focus is often on the visible injuries. Closed head injury to the brain is one of the most overlooked and sinister outcomes of traumatic injuries. Broken bones and cuts are more visible and can heal, but the unseen injury of a bruised brain may never fully recover.
A brain injury may have a devastating effect on the victim's relationships, occupation, income and quality of life. Although he may look just fine physically, friends, family members, coworkers and employers may not understand or sympathize with an injury they cannot see.
A brain injury can affect the very essence of a person. Personality, memory, reason, and temperament may all be affected in debilitating ways by brain trauma.
Acquired Brain Injury
Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) occurs when there is an internal problem such as air deprivation or a medical condition that causes neurological damage to the brain. Like traumatic brain injury, the causes of ABI can be sports-related. For example, defective SCUBA equipment can lead to oxygen deprivation; or, while not frequent, an avalanche during ski season can lead to asphyxiation. In both instances, there may be negligence involved that ultimately led to the brain injury. The symptoms and effects of an ABI are often the same as those of a TBI. Some common causes of an ABI are:
- Birth complications