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This lesson will focus on traumatic brain injury. Here, we’ll learn what causes traumatic brain injury, what happens to the brain and the symptoms patients experience.

Then we’ll go over the two main types of traumatic brain injury as well as the treatment.

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What Is Traumatic Brain Injury?

Friday night lights illuminate high school football fields across the nation. Young athletes run onto the field, cheered on by classmates and family. Students work in concession stands serving snacks to cold fans, raising money for various clubs at school. However, with the sprints, tackles, and falls come something less pleasant than popcorn and soda: traumatic brain injury (TBI), or a force applied to the head that causes brain damage.Football has been under especially intense scrutiny for traumatic brain injury in players in light of recent deaths due to a specific type of injury caused by multiple concussions. Researchers at Boston University analyzed 165 football players at the high school, college, or professional level and found that 70% of them suffered from traumatic brain injury.

To understand more about this increasingly relevant injury, let’s look at some of the general causes of TBI and compare the symptoms of mild and moderate to severe brain injury before examining specific types.

General Causes and Symptoms

Traumatic brain injury arises from an impact to the head, such as being hit during a boxing match, slammed to the ground or tackled during football, a gunshot wound, falls, or a blunt force trauma, such as being hit in the head with a solid object. The symptoms of a traumatic brain injury can appear right after the injury occurred in some people, while in others, symptoms may not appear for days or weeks.

Mild TBI Symptoms

Patients suffering from a mild traumatic brain injury may black out for a few seconds or minutes or just suffer from confusion.

Dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and disrupted sleep can also occur from a blow to the head. Patients might also experience some sensory symptoms, where their senses aren’t interpreting signals from the environment correctly, since the brain is important for processing sensory information. Some examples of sensory symptoms are sensitivity to light or sound, ringing in the ears, or tasting something bad, even without a stimulus.

Cognitive symptoms, where thinking is disrupted, like forgetfulness or unregulated emotional responses, can also occur.

Severe TBI Symptoms

Severe TBIs have proportionally severe symptoms. Patients with a severe TBI black out from minutes to hours and have repeated vomiting. They can even suffer from seizures and numbness in the body if the injury is bad enough. They also usually have dilated pupils, even in a well-lit room. Patients also might have cognitive symptoms like extreme confusion, slurred speech, or extreme emotional outbursts. Your brain controls everything in your body, so a severe injury has many serious repercussions.

Types of Traumatic Brain Injury

There are two main types of traumatic brain injury, open and closed. In an open traumatic brain injury, the skull is cracked open, broken, or penetrated. Examples of open TBI include a bullet wound or a blunt force trauma so severe the skull cracks. Some injuries can result in an object completely penetrating the skull to the other side. Some patients may survive such an event, but there will be extensive brain damage, which depends on what part of the brain was injured.

A skull fracture is a type of open traumatic brain injury
skull fracture

Closed traumatic brain injury occurs when there is an impact to the head, but the skull remains intact. A concussion is a mild type of traumatic brain injury, usually a closed traumatic brain injury that is caused by any damage to the head. Concussions may or may not result in a loss of consciousness and sometimes can be overlooked after a head injury.

Severity of traumatic brain injuries
Contrecoup injury
Arrows on an MRI scan point to bleeding in the brain and brain movement in the skull which may require surgery
mRI brain

Patients may also require drugs to prevent seizures and help with brain swelling. Most patients with a serious TBI will need rehabilitation and physical therapy. Due to brain damage, they will have to learn basic skills, like walking and talking, all over again. Patients also usually see someone to help them return to work and a social worker to manage the transition back to everyday activities with a life-changing injury.

Lesson Summary

Traumatic brain injury is a condition where there has been a force applied to the head which causes brain damage. Causes include bullet wounds, severe blunt trauma, skull fractures from impact or car crashes, or impact from sports or falls. Many people may black out or experience a dazed state. Vomiting, nausea, headaches, and dizziness may also occur.Open traumatic brain injuries happen when the skull is penetrated or cracked.

Closed traumatic brain injuries occur when there is no damage to the skull, but the brain may be bruised, bleeding, or torn inside the skull. Treatments include rest, and, in severe cases, surgery, medication, and extensive rehabilitation.Medical Disclaimer: The information on this site is for your information only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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