What are the Symptoms and Causes of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)?

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What are the Signs and Symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)?

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)?

Jun 21, 2023

Over the years, doctors have operated under the assumption that traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are typically resolved with rest and relaxation. Whether the symptoms include memory loss, pain, dizziness, or headaches, physicians have long assumed that TBIs are, in most cases, temporary ailments.

However, a recent study by the University of Oklahoma indicates that the effects of combat-related traumatic brain injury can entail long-term damage which persists for years without any decreasing severity.

Let’s take a look at TBIs in greater detail below. Whether you were injured in a car, truck, slip and fall or other type of personal injury incident, we’ll review everything you need to know about how to spot and receive proper medical treatment for a TBI in the sections below.

How do TBIs frequently happen?

Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are usually caused by a violent force to the body or head. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines a traumatic head injury as “a disruption of normal brain function that can be caused either by a bump or jolt, or a penetrating injury to the head.”

Traumatic brain injuries can be caused by any blunt force object, like a baseball bat, hammer, or bullet – anything that is capable of penetrating brain tissue. TBIs vary in severity from case to case. Mild traumatic brain injuries may temporarily affect brain cells, but recovery is usually possible with rehabilitation. TBIs that cause bruising, tears, internal bleeding, and other physical damage to the head that can lead to long-term complications (or even death).

The Mayo Clinic states that depending on the severity, the symptoms of traumatic brain injury can cause a variety of physical and psychological effects. Some symptoms may appear immediately after the accident while others can take weeks or months to manifest. Mayo Clinic has listed some symptoms that are specific to certain types of traumatic head injury (e.g. mild, moderate and severe traumatic brain injuries, as well as those that affect children).

How common is TBI? 2023 traumatic brain injury statistics

According to MedScape, traumatic brain injury is the 4th leading cause of death in the United States and the number one cause of death among people aged 1-14 years. Each year, approximately 2,000,000 traumatic brain injuries occur. According to a National Institutes of Health study, 1.9 million Americans suffer a skull injury or intracranial injuries each year. In the United States, firearms are the leading cause of death from traumatic head injury. Each year, close to 20,000 people suffer gunshot injuries to the head.

What are the different degrees of traumatic brain injury?

TBIs are usually classified as mild, medium, or severe. TBIs affecting children are classified differently, and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital confirms that a small percentage of traumatic brain injuries in children can include more severe symptoms. These include a long loss of consciousness, spasticity, muscle weakness, seizures, and more severe brain and functional problems.

TBI Classifications

– Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)

The following signs and symptoms may indicate a mild traumatic injury to the brain:

Physical Symptoms:

  • Consciousness loss (for a few moments or for several minutes)
  • No loss of awareness, but a confused, dazed or disoriented state
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fatigue or drowsiness
  • Speech problems
  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Dizziness and loss of balance

Sensory symptoms:

  • Sensory problems such as blurred sight, ringing ears, bad taste in mouth or changes in ability to smell
  • Sensitivity of light or sound

Cognitive or mental symptoms:

  • Memory or concentration problems
  • Feelings of change or mood swings
  • Feeling anxious or depressed

– Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) of Moderate to Serious Severity

The symptoms that commonly occur within the first few hours or days after a head trauma include:

Physical symptoms:

  • Loss of consciousness that can last from a few minutes to several hours
  • Headache that persists or worsens
  • Vomiting or nausea repeated
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • One or both pupils dilate
  • Fluid draining clear from the ears or nose
  • Sleeping and not being able to wake up
  • Numbness or weakness in the fingers and toes
  • Loss of coordination
  • Cognitive or mental symptoms
  • Confusion is a serious issue
  • Other unusual behaviors include agitation, combativeness or aggression
  • Slurred speech
  • Comas and other disorders that affect consciousness

Children’s Traumatic brain injury (TBI) symptoms:

Children and infants with traumatic head injuries may not be able communicate. Children may also experience headaches, confusion, or sensory problems. Children with traumatic head injury may exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Changes in feeding or nursing habits
  • Unusual or quick irritability
  • Constant crying and inability of consolers
  • Attentional changes
  • Sleep habits change
  • Seizures
  • Feeling sad or depressed
  • Drowsiness
  • Loss of interest or enjoyment in favorite toys and activities

Most common causes of traumatic brain injury (TBI)

Although it might seem logical to assume that car accidents are the most common cause of TBIs, the CDC confirmed in 2014 that slips and falls accounted nearly half (48%) for all TBI-related visits to emergency departments. Children and adults are more likely to fall than the general population.

The CDC’s most recent statistics indicate:

  • Falling was the cause of almost half (49%) all TBI related emergency department visits in children aged 0-17 years.
  • Falls are the cause of four out of five (81%) TBI emergency department visits among older adults (those over 65).
  • A second-leading cause of TBI related emergency department visits was being struck (or against) a object. In 2014, such incidents accounted approximately 17% of TBI-related visits to emergency departments in the U.S.
  • Over one in four emergency department visits (28%) involving TBIs in children younger than 17 were caused by an object striking or pinning the child against the object.
  • The leading cause of TBI hospitalizations was motor vehicle accidents, followed by falls (52%) and falls (20%).
  • In 2014, the number one cause of TBI deaths was intentional self-harm (33%)

The Mayo Clinic has identified additional causes of TBI, including:

  • Motor vehicle related collisions – Accidents involving motorbikes, bicycles or cars — and pedestrians in these accidents — are common causes of traumatic brain injuries.
  • Violence – Gunshots, domestic violence and child abuse are all common causes. Shaken baby syndrome, a brain injury that affects infants caused by violent shaking, is one of the most common causes.
  • Sports Injuries – Traumatic Brain Injury can be caused by a variety of sports including soccer, boxing football, lacrosse skateboarding hockey and other extreme or high-impact activities. These injuries are more common among youth.
  • Combat injuries and explosive blasts – Traumatic brain injuries are common among active-duty military personnel. Researchers believe that although the exact mechanism of damage is not yet understood, the pressure wave traveling through the brain can cause significant brain dysfunction.
  • Child abuse – The most common cause of child abuse is child maltreatment.

Mayo Clinic notes that traumatic injury to the brain is often caused by penetrating injuries, severe blows on the head from shrapnel and debris, or falls after a blast. The same person can suffer both closed and penetrating TBI due to extreme events such as explosions or natural disasters.

Car accident traumatic brain injury classifications

Let’s look at the most common types of brain injury that are sustained after car accidents.

Types of Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) that are Commonly Caused by Car Accidents:

Let’s first examine the most common types of TBI that occur in auto accident cases. Open or closed TBI is the two main types. The skull’s condition will determine whether the TBI is closed or open. Broken skulls are classified as open TBIs.

Open TBI is also known as penetrating and occurs when the skull/scalp has been fractured or broken. If a foreign object, such as a shard of glass or a piece of metal (e.g. If shrapnel penetrates the skull and enters the brain and damages certain parts of the organ, such as soft tissue, that would be classified under an open TBI. Localized brain injury can result from such a tragic incident. The damage occurs along the path where the foreign object entered. The symptoms that can follow an open TBI vary depending on which part of the brain has been damaged.
When an external force strikes the head, the skull does not break. The skull can be fractured in a closed TBI. In a car crash, a driver can hit the dashboard or windshield with his head without breaking it. Damage can be diffuse or widespread in such cases. The symptoms of a closed TBI vary depending on the severity of the brain damage.

Types of brain injuries that are often caused by car accidents

Many drivers and passengers who are involved in a car crash suffer from life-altering injuries. These can affect their ability to earn a living and live a fulfilling lifestyle. You may be able to receive financial compensation for your expenses and quality of life if your car accident injuries were caused by another driver’s negligence. These TBI injuries in car accidents can include:

  • Concussions – The CDC defines a “concussion” as a type of traumatic head injury (TBI) caused by a bump or blow to the head, or a body hit that causes the brain and head to move back and forth rapidly.
  • Brain Contusion – According to the UCLA Health System, brain contusions can occur when the head hits a ridge or fold in the durometer, the brain’s outer covering.
  • Brain Hemorrhage – WebMD describes a brain hemorrhage, as “a type of stroke caused by an arterial rupture in the brain that causes localized bleeding to the surrounding tissues.”
  • Brain Aneurysm – The Mayo Clinic defines brain aneurysms as “a bulge in a vessel of the brain that looks like a berry on a stem”. A brain aneurysm can rupture or leak, causing brain bleeding (i.e. Hemorrhagic stroke. A ruptured aneurysm occurs most commonly in the space between brain and thin tissues that cover the organ. Subarachnoid hemorrhage is the name given to this type of hemorrhagic strike.
  • Brain Tumor – According to Mayo Clinic, brain tumors are “masses or growths of abnormal cells” within the brain. There are many different types of brain tumors. Some brain tumors are benign (non-cancerous) and others are malignant (cancerous). Brain tumors may begin in the brain or spread from other parts of the human body to the brain. The rate at which a tumor in the brain grows can differ greatly from one patient to another. How a brain tumor affects the nervous system is largely determined by its growth rate and location. According to the Mayo Clinic, brain tumor treatments are dependent on the size and type of tumor as well as the location.
  • Penetrating Brain Injury – Medscape defines penetrating head injury (pTBI), as a wound where a projectile penetrates the skull but does not leave it. Mortality and morbidity associated with penetrating brain injury are high.
  • Anoxic Brain Injury – WebMD defines anoxic injury as a brain injury that occurs when the brain is not receiving oxygen. A lack of oxygen can cause brain tissue cells to die after a few minutes. Anoxic brain injuries can be caused by a heart attack (cardiac arrest), head trauma or injury, drowning, overdose of drugs, or poisoning.

Treatment Options for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Treatment and rehabilitation for traumatic brain injury can differ dramatically depending on the type and severity. The National Institutes of Health have outlined a variety of treatment options that can help patients recover from TBI. These include reducing or eliminating certain physical, cognitive, or emotional problems. Treatment options can vary depending on the area of the head that was injured and the severity. The NIH offers the following options to treat TBIs of varying severity:

Treatment for Mild Traumatic Brain Injury:

Concussion is a common mild TBI. A mild TBI may only require rest, rather than intensive treatment. The NIH advises that patients should follow the instructions of their healthcare providers, which may include complete rest and a gradual transition back to normal activities. The healing process can be delayed if you return to your normal activities too early. Even everyday activities such as reading or working on a PC can cause brain fatigue after a TBI. Patients who have suffered a concussion might need to refrain from such activities, or take frequent breaks.
The NIH also confirms that alcohol and other drugs can delay recovery, increase the risk of re-injury and cause long-term issues, such as permanent brain damage or even death.

Treatment for TBI in Emergency Situations:

In emergency care, TBI patients are usually stabilized and kept alive. It can be as simple as ensuring that the brain gets enough oxygen, controlling the blood pressure and brain pressure and preventing any further head or neck injury. After the emergency treatment is complete, TBI care can be intensified.
Surgery is often required in severe TBI cases to reduce brain damage. Some types of surgery include:

  • Remove blood clots and pools – Large blood clots (also called hematomas) are often caused by bleeding in the brain or between the skull and brain. These clots may damage brain tissue by increasing pressure on the skull.
  • Repairing a skull fracture – Removing pieces of skull from the brain or setting severe fractures can promote healing.

Relief of pressure within the skull Intracranial pressure (ICP) is the intracranial force. The brain is damaged by increased pressure in the skull caused by swelling, blood and other substances. During emergency care, the ICP of a TBI patient is monitored. Some cases require a shunt, drain or hole to be made in the skull to allow fluid to drain.

TBI Treatment:

The NIH emphasizes the importance of different types of therapy in helping patients recover after TBI. TBI patients can recover skills and regain functions with the help of therapy. Rehabilitation can include a variety of therapies for cognitive, emotional, or physical difficulties. Rehabilitation is also useful for some activities such as driving, self-care and social interaction. NIH states that depending on the type of injury, such treatments may be needed only briefly, either immediately after the injury or at times throughout a patient’s lifetime. In some cases, a treatment schedule may be necessary.

The therapy can begin in the hospital and continue in many places including rehab centers, skilled nursing homes, schools, homes and outpatient programs.
TBI Rehabilitation Therapy may include:

  • Physical Therapy – Increases physical strength, flexibility and balance as well as energy levels
  • Occupational Therapy – To learn (or relearn how to) perform daily tasks such as dressing, cooking and bathing.
  • Speech Therapy – To aid patients with the ability to speak, form words and communicate in general. This can include instructions on using special communication devices and treatment for trouble swallowing.
  • Psychological Counseling – To improve emotional well-being, learn coping techniques, improve interpersonal relationships and work on improving general emotional wellbeing. This may include medication to address chemical imbalances caused by TBI
  • Vocational Counseling – To assist patients in returning to work or community life by finding suitable employment opportunities and navigating workplace challenges
  • Cognitive Therapy To improve memory, attention, perception, learning, planning, and Judgment.

How to Hire a Traumatic Brain Injury Lawyer

TBI victims can experience long recovery times due to severe injuries. You have legal rights if you suffered a TBI as a result of a serious accident caused by someone else’s negligence. Medical expenses, rehabilitation, pain, suffering, lost earnings, disability and more could cost you a lifetime. To ensure that your case is handled correctly, you will need a Dordulian Law Group (DLG) attorney who has decades of experience fighting for injured victims.

DLG treats you as a part of its extended family. We will do everything in our power to help you focus on your recovery, while we take care of the mounting bills and other stressors associated with a TBI.

Sam Dordulian is DLG’s founder and president. He and his team of TBI lawyers have helped clients recover more than $100,000,000.00 in settlements and verdicts.

Ready to file a claim and pursue justice through a financial damages award? Our expert attorneys are available online or by phone now.

You can contact one of our TBI or personal injury lawyers by calling 866-GO-SEE-SAM. We are here to help answer any questions you might have and ensure that you better understand your legal rights following a TBI. DLG does not charge upfront fees and there are never any out-of pocket expenses – you won’t pay anything until after we’ve successfully secured a maximum cash settlement for your TBI case.

Call us at 866-GO-SEE-SAM to find out more about our expert TBI legal services.

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