A traumatic brain injury, or TBI, is caused by a jolt, bump or blow to the head or a penetrating head injury that interferes with the normal functioning of the brain. Not all blows to the head result in a TBI however. The TBI may range from mild, where a person might suffer from only a brief change in mental status or consciousness, to severe, where a person might have an extended period of unconsciousness or injury after the accident.
According to a recent publishing by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 1.4 million people per year suffer a TBI in the United States. Of those people, 50,000 die; 235,000 are hospitalized; and 1.1 million are treated and released from an emergency department of a hospital. The leading causes of TBI are: Falls – 28%; Motor-vehicle traffic crashes – 20%; Struck by/against events – 19% (this includes colliding with a moving or stationary object); and Assaults – 11%.
The symptoms and tell-tale signs of a TBI can be difficult to detect. Symptoms of a TBI may not surface until days or weeks after the TBI, and people can look fine even though they may feel or act differently. According to the CDC, some of the most common symptoms of a TBI are:
- Headaches or neck pain that do not go away;
- Difficultly remembering, concentrating, or making decisions;
- Slowness in thinking, speaking, acting, or reading;
- Getting lost or easily confused;
- Feeling tired all the time, having no energy or motivation;
- Mood changes (feeling sad or angry for no reason);
- Changes in sleep patterns (sleeping a lot more or having a hard time sleeping);
- Light-headedness, dizziness, or loss of balance;
- Urge to vomit (nausea);
- Increased sensitivity to lights, sounds, or distractions;
- Blurred vision or eyes that tire easily;
- Loss of sense of smell or taste; and
- Ringing in the ears.
Children can also suffer similar symptoms to adults, but it may be harder for them to let others know how they feel. If your child suffers a blow to the head and you notice any of the following symptoms, call your child’s doctor immediately:
- Tiredness or listlessness;
- Irritability or crankiness (will not stop crying or cannot be consoled);
- Changes in eating (will not eat or nurse);
- Changes in sleep patterns;
- Changes in the way the child plays;
- Changes in performance at school;
- Lack of interest in favorite toys or activities;
- Loss of new skills, such as toilet training;
- Loss of balance or unsteady walking; or
If you suspect that you or someone you know suffered from a traumatic brain injury, contact your health care professional immediately. He/she can refer you to a specialist, such as a neurologist, neuropsychologist, or neurosurgeon. Getting help as quickly as possible after an accident may help speed recovery.