Traumatic Brain Injury

What Is Traumatic Brain Injury?

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) occurs when a severe jolt or blow to the head leads to brain damage. It can also result when an object, such as a bullet or shrapnel, pierces the brain.

TBIs are commonly caused by sports injuries, such as from hockey or football, collisions between drivers, bikers, or pedestrians, as well as falls, violence, and combat. Symptoms can appear immediately after the incident or gradually emerge in the days that follow. People should typically seek medical attention after a severe blow to the head, especially if it seems to have altered the person’s behavior.

Injuries are categorized as mild, moderate, or severe based on how long the person was disoriented and unconscious as well as brain scan results. Therefore, people with TBIs experience different symptoms and to different degrees. In the physical domain, they may experience headaches, nausea, disorientation, drowsiness, trouble sleeping, slurred speech, or loss of consciousness. Cognitively they may struggle with concentrationmemorydecision makingimpulse control, and depression. From a sensory perspective, they may hear ringing in their ears, have vision impairments, and be especially sensitive to light and sound.

TBIs are quite common. About 2.87 million emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and deaths were attributed to TBIs in the United States in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And that number appears to be rising, as it increased by 53 percent between 2006 and 2014.

Can a Head Injury Change Behavior?

Head injuries do have the capacity to alter behavior, and those changes depend on the severity and number of injuries. Short term changes include feeling dizzy, confused, and exhausted. The person could have a headache, nausea, blurred vision, ringing in the ears, and sensitivity to light and sound.

Long term changes are rare, especially given that concussions are the most common type of TBI. Most people recover smoothly within a few weeks and have no permanent harm. But in some cases, lasting changes occur. Someone who suffers a TBI may lose the ability to concentrate as intently, which may manifest at work, in conversation, or with household tasks. They may struggle to remember events or facts. Personality may shift as well, becoming more irritable, angry, impulsive, and unable to exercise self-control. They may struggle with depression and anxiety, as well as sleep disturbances.

Repeated concussions can lead to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by severe changes of attention, memory, concentration, impulse control, anxiety, and depression. It can ultimately lead to dementia or death. Many prominent athletes have posthumously been diagnosed with the disease—which has triggered a global discussion about the science, ethics, and commercialization of football and other contact sports.

How A Head Injury Changes the Brain

A sudden jolt can send the delicate brain crashing into the hard skull that surrounds it. This can lead the brain tissue to bruise or swell where it collided with bone. It can also strain a part of neurons called axons, which facilitate communication between brain cells. The force can stretch and rip axons apart, leading them to release chemical toxins that kill fellow brain cells.

How Is A Head Injury Treated?

Mild TBIs, which include concussions, are treated with rest and over the counter medication for headaches. The person can then gradually resume physical and mental tasks. If a moderate or severe TBI is suspected, it is important to seek medical attention immediately, even if there is no immediate symptom onset. (Brain swelling may take hours or longer to manifest.)may be treated with a combination of medication, surgery, and rehabilitative therapies.

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