what is a traumatic brain injury (TBI)?

A TBI IS a disruption in brain function, caused by an external force to the head  



  • Over 2.8 million TBIs occur in the U.S. annually
  • 3.2 – 5.3 million people in the U.S. are currently living with a TBI-related disability
  • 70-80% of all TBIs are mild, which includes concussions  



  • 3 main categories:  mild, moderate, or severe
    • However, the clinical diagnosis of mild, moderate, or severe is not necessarily associated with long-term symptoms, which vary greatly from person to person, even within the same category
  • A concussion is a mild TBI
    • It often heals within days or weeks, but can result in long-term functional deficits


  • Each TBI is unique, manifesting differently depending on several factors:
    • Mechanism of injury
    • Severity
    • History of previous TBIs
    • Age


TBI causes a wide range of effects, which may include: 

  • Cognitive

    • Impulsivity
    • Memory loss
    • Confusion
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Light and/or sound sensitivity
    • Difficulty communicating


  • Physical

    • Headache
    • Dizziness
    • Nausea/vomiting
    • Loss of coordination/balance
    • Chronic pain
    • Poor vision


  •  Emotional

    • Irritability
    • Sadness
    • Anxiety
    • Denial
    • Lack of self-efficacy
    • Uncooperative



  • Falls – 40.5%
  • Other/unknown – 19.0%
  • Blunt trauma – 15.5%
  • Motor vehicle accidents – 14.3%
  • Assaults – 10.7%
  • Main causes of mild TBI 
    • Sports
    • Blast (common military injury)


Important Facts:

  • No two brain injuries are the same  
  • Recovering from a TBI can be a long journey
  • The “invisible” injury
    • Sometimes people may seem fully recovered, but in fact are still dealing with the ongoing consequences of their injury  
  • How to support someone with a TBI
    • Be patient, positive, encouraging, and understanding as they acclimate to their new normal

useful resourceS:

Report to Congress on Traumatic Brain Injury in the United States: Epidemiology and Rehabilitation