TBI is a disruption of brain function caused by an external force. Common causes include transportation accidents, falls, and injuries due to violence, firearms, and sports. There are many different forms of TBI, and the effects vary widely in type, severity, and longevity. According to the Brain Injury Association of America, TBIs include concussions, contusions, and penetrations of the skull, among other conditions. While some forms of TBI are mild (e.g., a loss of consciousness shorter than 30 minutes), severe cases can result in serious complications including bruising, bleeding, torn tissues, long-term loss of consciousness, or long-term damage to brain structure and function. Long-term or permanent complications of TBI may take the form of comas, vegetative states, paralysis, seizures, infections, and damage to the circulatory or nervous system.
The effects of TBI are not always purely physical. There are a variety of ways in which TBI can affect cognitive processes as well. Patients with TBI may experience problems in the following areas, according to the Center for Disease Control:
- Sensory processing;
- Memory impairment;
- Difficulty with logical reasoning;
- Difficulty communicating and understanding others;
- Changes in personality;
- Aggression/acting out; and
- Social inappropriateness.
MayoClinic expands this list further to include impaired decision-making ability, lack of empathy, insomnia, changes in self-esteem, mood swings, and lack of self-awareness, to name a few. Research has also shown that victims of TBI are at greater risk for Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and dementia.