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TBI Questions & Facts

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is a complex injury with a broad spectrum of symptoms that can cause a number of impairments or disabilities. The impact of a TBI on a person and his or her family can be devastating, since this injury is not only physical, but can cause mental and emotional challenges in the patient. Although caring for someone with a TBI can be difficult, The Freedom Center (in partnership with Interim HealthCare) can help families who find they have to cope with the unexpected effects of a sudden injury to the brain.

What is Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)?

When a head in motion suddenly strikes a stationary object, the brain will violently slam against the skull resulting in a “Traumatic Brain Injury.” Striking a windshield or the ground at even a modest rate of speed, or an object striking the head can cause a contusion resulting in injury.
Damage to brain cells disrupts interneuron communication and interferes with cognitive processes such as thinking, learning, remembering, perceiving, self-awareness, and impulse control. Traumatic injury also frequently interferes with the brain’s ability to coordinate body movements and regulate emotions.
Consequences of injury can range from relatively mild to catastrophically severe depending on multiple factors including the degree of force, past head traumas, neurological or other physiological complications, injury location in the brain, and timeliness of emergency medical treatment. Each individual who sustains traumatic brain injury responds differently. In addition to the individual dynamics of direct injury to the brain, accompanying bodily injuries, psychological reactions, idiosyncratic physiological and molecular reactions, weak social supports and other factors potentially contribute to brain injury consequences.

Can a brain injury occur even without sustaining a direct blow to the head?

Yes, something such as ‘Whiplash’ an injury that is a violent shaking of the head can cause a brain injury. Sudden movement of the brain inside the cranium potentially causes damage to neurons and other brain structures and may cause blood vessels to tear. Sudden acceleration-deceleration of the head in an automobile collision, even with airbag deployment where the head is protected from striking a solid object, can cause brain injury because the brain may still slam against the inside of the skull, displacing, tearing, and bruising nerve cells and other tissues. This causes loss of communication within neural networks, and loss of integrity in how the brain has been managing its familiar cognitive and behavioral ways of doing things.


What are typical functional consequences of a traumatic brain injury?

Thinking and motor skills become slow, selective memory becomes unreliable, attention and concentration may become haphazard and social behaviors can alter, such as being uninhibited or even childlike. Generally, the greater the damage is the more widespread and severe the symptoms will be. The brain simply cannot process electrochemical information as efficiently as it used to. Thinking takes more time because it is subject to errors caused by unfamiliar neural detours around damaged neurons. Judgment and decision making may be faulty because the complex interrelated brain connections are not available to the person now in the way they were before the injury.

Individuals sometimes sense incomplete mental processing and lose confidence in thinking. Complex or unfamiliar tasks may become frustrating and discouraging, as thinking no longer yields insights or flexibility in solving problems. Irritability prevails, as the individual attempts to cope with a brain that seems always to function in a mental fog.
A host of complicating cognitive, emotional and social reactions can evolve. Symptoms usually respond to rehabilitation.  Methods for helping the individual learn effective self-awareness and coping strategies to deal with the cognitive and behavioral challenges and to minimize frustration and negative emotional responses. Traumatic brain injury also increases risk factors for developing psychiatric disorder or dementia.


Why does a brain injury produce different outcomes in individuals?

Just as no two people are alike in behavior and personality, no two brain injuries are exactly alike.A TBI manifests itself depending on a host of factors such as native intellectual capacity, developmental experience, physical health, age, emotional and personality resources, social supports, concurrent (non-brain) injuries, quality of immediate medical attention following an injury, psychological adjustment or maladjustment, and a host of other factors. Also, just as the amount of physical injuries such as broken bones, soft tissue contusions, or lacerations may vary among individuals involved in accidents, so do the amount and kind of head rotation, impact speed, and other physical factors that determine the specific nature and consequences of the TBI.

What effect does pain have on the experience of Traumatic Brain Injuries?

Pain often accompanies a TBI due to head and neck soft tissue injury, cervical strain and spinal injuries. Chronic pain and suffering (and medications one might take for this) certainly diminishes one’s concentration, stamina, and emotional well-being. A comprehensive examination must consider pain and discomfort factors as well as cognitive, behavioral, and emotional factors in the overall clinical presentation and the potential for recovery.


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