Half of all traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) in the United States are caused in accidents involving automobiles, motorcycles, and bicycles, says the National Institutes of Health, the medical and behavioral research arm of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Approximately 20 percent of serious head injuries are the result of violent acts, such as gun shot wounds and beatings. TBIs are commonly found in babies and children who have been violently shaken. In older people, head injuries associated with falling are the top cause of TBIs.
Many brain injuries occur without direct impact to the head. Combat operations often cause brain injuries in military personnel, as seen in veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Explosions, for instance, may not actually harm the skull, but they can send a wave of concussive force that passes through and injures the brain. Lightning strikes and severe electrical shocks often cause serious injury to the brain.
The symptoms of a brain injury can range from mild to severe. According to the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke, a person who experiences a brain injury may experience any of the following symptoms:
- loss of consciousness
- blurred vision or tired eyes
- ringing in the ears
- bad taste in the mouth
- fatigue or lethargy
- a change in sleep patterns
- behavioral or mood changes
- trouble with memory, concentration, attention, or thinking
Additionally, more severe TBIs often cause the following symptoms:
- frequent nausea and / or repeated vomiting
- convulsions or seizures
- inability to waken from sleep
- dilation of one or both pupils
- slurred speech
- weakness or numbness in the extremities
- loss of coordination
- increased confusion, restlessness, or agitation
Treatment of TBIs varies depending on the type and extent of injury. Blunt force trauma to the head requires a very different course of treatment than injuries caused by objects that penetrate the skull and brain tissue.
Patients with mild to moderate cases of TBI usually receive x-rays of the head and neck. However, CT scans are normally required for more severe cases. Severely injured patients usually start on a course of rehabilitation that includes customized treatment programs in physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, physical medicine, psychological and psychiatric therapy, and social support.