Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Overview

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the movement of a sudden, externally-induced physical force, such as a blow to the head, that affects brain function. It can range in severity from a mild concussion to a severe, confusional state. Depending upon its severity and location, a TBI can affect a range of brain functions – memory, speech, learning, vision and behavior and physical functioning – and can even be fatal.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of a TBI?

TBI symptoms may range from mild to severe and can last from a few days to months, or even years. Common symptoms include:

  • Loss of consciousness, even if just for a few seconds
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness and/or disorientation
  • Blurred vision or vision disturbances
  • Light and sound sensitivity
  • Difficulties concentrating/remembering
  • Slurring of speech
  • Difficulties controlling emotions and/or behavior

Who is at Risk for TBI?

Everyone is a potential risk for TBI, but certain groups of people are more vulnerable than others. Those at the greatest risk include:

  • Children under the age of four
  • Older adults over the age of 65
  • People who participate in contact sports
  • People with a history of brain injury
  • People living with mental health problems

How is TBI Diagnosed?

The diagnosis of TBI usually requires specialized evaluation by a healthcare provider. Diagnosis may include a physical examination, a neurological examination, and/or imaging such as a CT scan, MRI, or EEG. Additional specialized testing may also be necessary. The goal of early TBI diagnosis is to determine the severity and type of injury and to plan the appropriate treatment.

Treatment for TBI

Treatment for TBI will differ depending on the severity of the injury. But in general, treatments may include any combination of physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech-language therapy, educational therapy, as well as psychological and/or behavioral therapies. Medications may also be prescribed in order to control seizures, improve mood, manage pain, etc.

Prevention of TBI

The best way to prevent TBI is to take steps to reduce the risk of a head injury occurring in the first place. Practice the following safety measures for all age groups:

  • Always wear a seat belt when in a vehicle.
  • Always wear a properly fitted helmet when you are riding a bicycle, a scooter, skateboard, or snowmobile.
  • Always protect your head when playing contact sports.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and watch out for tripping hazards that can cause a fall.
  • Practice safe driving habits, such as slowing down before turns.