Head injuries are one of the most common causes of deficits and deaths in adults. People end up in accidents and violent situations, sometimes an unfortunate tackle on the field results in a brain injury which might end up changing one’s life course. Here are a few things you ought to know about our brain and things which may harm it.

What is a traumatic brain injury?

A traumatic brain injury occurs when a sudden trauma, often a blow to the head or a penetrating head injury, damages tissue and disrupts the normal function of our brain. Its symptoms can be categorized from mild to severe. A mild traumatic brain injury can be a minor concussion and a severe traumatic brain injury can cause a coma and sometimes death.

A concussion can cause momentary loss of consciousness, dizziness, confusion, loss of one’s equilibrium, headache and vision problems. A moderate traumatic brain injury, leaves a person lethargic and unconscious. They only respond to stimulus. A severe traumatic injury, can cause both short and long term effects which can impair cognitive and motor function, sensation and behaviour. It has major impacts on one’s family and societal relationships.

Brain tumour, infection or a stroke do not come under the category of Traumatic brain injuries.

Traumatic Brain Injury can be categorized in two types namely: –

Closed Brain Injury: – This occurs when the brain experiences a non-penetrating injury without a break in the skull. This is often caused by a rapid backward and forward movement of the brain inside the skull, which results in bruising, tissue damage and disrupts normal brain function.

Penetrating brain injury: – Open head injuries occur when there is a physical trauma, which penetrates the skull. For example, when a bullet pierces the brain or a sharp object penetrates the skull during an accident.

Common signs and symptoms of a Traumatic Brain Injury.

The symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injuries fall under four major categories,

Cognitive

  • Memory loss
  • Inability to understand or speak language,
  • Mental confusion,
  • Impaired decision making,
  • Shortened attention span
  • Difficulty processing information.

Perceptual

  • Change in vision
  • Hearing or sense of touch
  • Spatial disorientation
  • Loss of equilibrium
  • Inability to sense time
  • Heightened sensitivity to pain.
  • Disorders of smell and taste.

Behavioral/emotional

  • Flattened or heightened irritability and impatience
  • Reduced tolerance for stress
  • Sluggishness
  • Denial of disability
  • Increased aggressiveness
  • Lack of restraint
  • Persistent repetition of words or actions.

Physical

  • Persistent headaches
  • Extreme mental and physical fatigue
  • Paralysis
  • Tremors,
  • Seizures,
  • Sensitivity to light,
  • Sleep disorders,
  • Slurred speech,
  • Loss of consciousness.

The leading causes of Traumatic Brain Injury include:-

  1. Car accidents
  2. Blows to the head
  3. Sports injuries
  4. Falls and other accidents
  5. Physical violence

In the military, the leading causes of Traumatic Brain Injury are bullets, fragments, blasts, falls, motor vehicle crashes, and assaults. 

Do people make full recovery after a Traumatic Brain Injury?

According to several studies conducted in this area, once the brain cells are damaged or degenerated because of an injury, they do not regenerate. Despite this, younger people have shown a better recovery rate than other age groups. Studies have also noted that other parts of the brain compensate for the damaged tissue or the synapses find alternative pathways to deliver the messages. As each brain injury is unique, the recovery time for each is different and can often take years or may sometimes require a lifelong rehabilitation process.  

Results of a Traumatic Brain Injury

Severe injuries may leave a person with lifelong deficits, which can be classified into cognitive, motor, sensory, communication, functional, social difficulties, regulatory disturbances, personality changes and epilepsy.

Cognitive deficits include amnesia, decreased attention span, coma, difficulty in following two or more steps command. Paralysis, Poor balance, decreased endurance, inability to plan motor movements, delays in initiation, tremors come under motor deficits.

People who have experienced head injuries often complain of regular migraines, fatigue and changes in sleeping and eating habits.

Epilepsy too is a major after effect of head injuries. Though in the majority of cases, seizures occur immediately after the injury or within the first year. Though it is possible for it to resurface years later.

How are Traumatic Brain Injuries treated ?

Brain injuries do not necessarily result in long-term defects. Though correct diagnosis and treatment on time play a major role in a person’s recovery. Successful rehabilitation depends on the following variables: –

  1. Overall health of the patient

The overall health of the patient needs close monitoring with the help of doctors and family members The patient needs all-round care and medical observation by specialist team of doctors.

  1. Family and psychological support

It is of utmost importance that friends and family support the patient affected by the injury. They can do this by spreading positive reinforcements to help the patient slowly get back to a daily routine before the injury or in some cases help them settle into a new one.

  1. Speech and language therapy 

Brain injuries often damage the nerves responsible for coherent speech in a person. A speech therapist helps the patient slowly regain their speech patterns and improve pronunciation.

  1. Physical therapy 

It is a vital part of recovery that helps improve flexibility and range of motion after the injury. It minimizes scar tissues in case of surgeries and helps with the pain without prescription drugs.

  1. Occupational therapy

Occupational therapy helps the patient adapt to their new lifestyle through various means and equipment. It plays a major role in getting the person settled into their post injury routine.

There are also injury-specific rehabilitation programs, which target the area affected the most by the injury.