Home > Traumatic Brain Injury


    Traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs from a sudden blow or jolt to the head. Brain injury often occurs during some type of trauma, such as an accident, blast, or a fall. Often when people refer to TBI, they are mistakenly talking about the symptoms that occur following a TBI. Actually, a TBI is the injury, not the symptoms.


    A TBI is basically the same thing as a concussion. A TBI can be mild, moderate, or severe. These terms tell you the nature of the injury itself. They do not tell you what symptoms you may have or how severe the symptoms will be.

    A TBI can occur even when there is no direct contact to the head. For example, when a person suffers whiplash, the brain may be shaken within the skull. This damage can cause bleeding between the brain and skull. Bruises can form where the brain hits the skull. Like bruises on other parts of the body, for mild injuries these will heal with time.

    The length of time that a person is unconscious (knocked out) is one way to measure how severe the injury was. This however is no reliable indicator by itself. The force of the


    Symptoms that result from TBI are known as post-concussion syndrome (PCS). Few people will have all of the symptoms, but even one or two of the symptoms can be unpleasant. PCS makes it hard to work, get along at home, or relax. In the days, weeks, and months following a TBI the most common symptoms are:


    • Headache
    • Feeling dizzy
    • Being tired
    • Trouble sleeping
    • Vision problems
    • Feeling bothered by noise and light

    Cognitive (Mental)

    • Memory problems
    • Trouble staying focused
    • Poor judgment and acting without thinking
    • Being slowed down
    • Trouble putting thoughts into words

    Emotional (Feelings)

    • Depression
    • Anger outbursts and quick to anger
    • Anxiety (fear, worry, or feeling nervous)
    • Personality changes

    More serious symptoms include severe forms of those listed above, decreased response to standard treatments, and seizures.


    The conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq (OEF/OIF) have resulted in increased numbers of Veterans who have TBI. The main causes of TBI in OEF/OIF Veterans are blasts, motor vehicle accidents, and gunshot wounds. The Department of Defense and the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center estimate that 22% of all OEF/OIF combat wounds are brain injuries. This is compared to TBI in 12% of combat wounds that occurred in Vietnam. Veterans seem to have symptoms for longer than civilians. Some studies show most will still have symptoms 18-24 months after the TBI and in many cases for the rest of their lives. Also, many Veterans have more than one medical problem, including: PTSD, chronic pain, or substance abuse. From 60-80% of service members who are hurt in other ways by a blast may have a TBI. These other problems make it harder to get better from any single problem. VA is using a TBI screening tool to begin the assessment process. VA has put in place the Polytrauma System of Care to treat Veterans with TBI who also have other injuries.

    You should notify your primary care physician if you feel you suffer from TBI.

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