What is a traumatic brain injury (TBI)?

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a condition in which there has been an external force to the head that in some way injures the brain. It can therefore vary from a minor blow to the head with short-term dizziness or light headedness to a life changing brain injury due to major trauma.

Because TBI covers such a wide range of injuries, its effects, symptoms, and prognoses vary. Each year, minor incidents of TBI happen to more than one million people in the United States. These minor injuries frequently result in the treatment and release from hospital emergency departments. Another 230,000 people are hospitalized each year with TBIs. Of these people, 99,000 will show a lasting disability.

TBIs happen to males twice as often as they do to females, with males 15 to 24 years of age having the highest risk. This risk of TBIs also increases after age 60.

What causes traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) ?

The most common cause of TBI is motor vehicle accidents, accounting for almost half of all TBIs that require hospitalization. Sports or physical activity is the second most common cause, and assaults are third. For those who are over age 65, falls are the number one cause. Although they only make up a small number of the overall cases of TBI, the number of these injuries resulting from gunshot wounds has increased in recent years. Of these, nearly two-thirds are categorized as suicide attempts.

What should I look for after a traumatic brain injury ?

Any type of TBI — no matter how minor it might appear — should be taken seriously. If there is any loss of consciousness, no matter how brief, see a doctor as soon as possible. Even if unconsciousness does not occur, the several hours that follow the injury are still very important and you should watch for the following symptoms:

If any of these symptoms occur, see a doctor immediately, for they could mean that the brain is bleeding or swelling.