Traumatic Brain Injury Causes & Symptoms

Did you know more than 2.5 million people in the United States sustain traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) each year, and 1 million more experience strokes and other acquired brain injuries?

Traumatic brain injuries can affect anyone- from small children to older adults.

What is a Traumatic Brain Injury?

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is an injury to the brain that is typically caused by a sudden blow to the head, resulting in damage to the brain or disruption of normal brain function.

What Causes Traumatic Brain Injury?

“Traumatic brain injuries can occur for a number of reasons, from a car accident to a sports-related collision or a fall,” says Rebound neurosurgeon, Dr. Ashok Modha. “The extent of damage to the brain depends on how severe the impact is, whether the skull is penetrated, and what area of the brain is affected.”

Some of the most common causes of TBI include falls, motor vehicle accidents, violence and sports injuries.

“When the head is struck or jolted suddenly with force, the brain is at a high risk of coming in contact with the inner wall of the skull,” says Dr. Modha. “When this happens, the back and forth movement of the brain in the skull can cause damage to protective tissues around the brain or tearing, swelling and bleeding.”

What are TBI Symptoms?

Symptoms of TBI depend on the severity of the injury, with some symptoms occurring immediately and some appearing up to days or weeks following the injury.

“Symptoms typical fall into categories,” says Dr. Modha. “Patients can experience a wide range of physical, sensory or cognitive symptoms.”

Mild TBI Symptoms

A commonly known mild traumatic brain injury is the concussion. Someone suffering from a mild TBI may experience:

  • Temporary loss of consciousness
  • No loss of consciousness, but disorientation following injury
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Headache
  • Dizziness, lack of coordination or balance
  • Fatigue
  • Sleepiness or difficult sleeping
  • Blurred vision
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Light and sound sensitivity
  • Cognitive issues such as memory loss, confusion, attention deficits
  • Changes in mood, depression, anxiety

Moderate to Severe TBI Symptoms

Many of the symptoms associated with mild TBIs may appear in those experiencing a more severe TBI, in addition to more aggressive symptoms or symptoms.

  • Loss of consciousness ranging from minutes to hours
  • Headache that worsens or does not go away
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Dilation of one or both pupils
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Clear fluids draining from nose or ears
  • Confusion, disorientation and memory problems
  • Weakness or numbness in extremities
  • Loss of coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Light and sound sensitivity
  • Extreme mood changes
  • Loss of sense of smell or taste or altered sense of smell or taste
  • Nerve damage
  • Coma

Diagnosis & Treatment

Injuries to the head require immediate medical attention and diagnosis. Should you or someone you know experience a head injury and the symptoms above, seek care as quickly as possibly. You can learn more about the diagnosis and treatment of traumatic brain injuries here.

Other Rebound Brain Injury Resources

What Causes a Concussion and How is it Treated?

Proper Helmet Fitting for Sports Safety

How is a Traumatic Brain Injury Diagnosed?