Recognizing the Symptoms of a Traumatic Brain Injury

Approximately 1.4 million people in the United States suffer a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) every year. TBI can result anytime that a blow to the head is sustained. Recently the news of Tony-winning actress Natasha Richardson’s unfortunate skiing accident has drawn attention to TBI. So, for those who are wondering whether they or someone close to them has suffered a TBI as a result of a recent motor vehicle collision, fall or other injury, I have compiled some information on TBI’s, including how to recognize the symptoms.

The definition of TBI can vary according to the situation and which doctor one asks. In a report to Congress, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control defined TBI as an injury to the head with one or more of the following conditions attributed to the head injury: decreased level of consciousness (were you knocked out due to the blow to the head?), amnesia (this can be short or long-term loss of memory), skull fracture, objective neurological or neuropsychological abnormality (for example, decreased reaction time, loss of motor skills, increased headaches or seizures) , or diagnosed intracranial lesion (which are usually identified by CT or MRI scans) .1 What does all of that mean? For someone worried about whether they have suffered a TBI, the rule of thumb should be better safe than sorry. If you or someone you know has suffered an injury and is not “acting like themselves,” then there is a possibility of TBI, and a medical professional should be consulted.

The two most common causes of TBI are falls (28%) and motor vehicle collisions (20%).2 Any of the symptoms listed above can result from any blow to the head, and the severity of the injury may range from “mild” to “severe.”

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 1.  Guidelines for Surveillance of Central Nervous System Injury, CDC, 1995.

2.  www.biausa.org/aboutbi.htm, last checked 3/30/2009.

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