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Can Symptoms of TBI Show Up a Few Years After an Injury?

Comments [24]

Dr. Jane Gillett, BrainLine

Can Symptoms of TBI Show Up a Few Years After an Injury?

My husband and grandson were in a car accident almost two years ago. My grandson was 9-months old at the time. The doctors assured us that he was fine and that there was no damage to his brain. The scans were negative. Now he is almost three and having trouble with his coordination and his language. Could he have had a brain injury after all that is affecting his development?


This is always a challenging question. When trying to find a connection between your grandson’s current issues and what might have a been a brain injury in the car crash, it’s important to know what your grandson was acting like immediately after the collision and for the next few days and weeks. This information may be a clue that a brain injury did occur. More specifically:

  • Was he unusually quiet?
  • Did he throw up (not just spit up but actually throw up)?
  • Was he more irritable than usual for several weeks after the collision?
  • Did he lose any of his recently attained skills for a few a weeks and then resume attaining his developmental milestones?

A yes to any of these questions would raise the suspicion of a brain injury.

Plain x-rays do not tell anyone much about the brain and even a CT scan may look normal even if a brain injury has occurred. An EEG done early may have shown the impact the collision had on your grandson’s brain. A MRI of his head with diffusion tensor imaging sequences may demonstrate some evidence of an old injury. If your grandson had any of the symptoms listed, talk with his pediatrician about the possibility that he may have had a TBI when he was a baby.

If he seemed fine right after the accident, then his learning issues are most likely not related to the crash. Whatever the cause, he may be eligible for special education services at no charge. Contact the Child Find office in your public school system to see if he might be eligible under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.


Click here to go to About Ask the Expert.

Jane Gillett, MDJane Gillett, MD, Dr. Jane Gillett was a neurologist certified by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada in both pediatric and adult neurology. She created and developed the Pediatric Acquired Brain Injury Community Outreach Program, Children’s Hospital of Western Ontario. She died in 2011.

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Comments [24]

I am 34 when I was 14 I was hit by a car and unconscious for a little over 24 hrs. I couldn't stand fast or walk too much for over a week without losing consciousness. Doctors said it was due to the pain of broken bones. But since then and even worse now I'll cry at inappropriate times or laugh at inappropriate times. I find it hard to connect with death or one of my children's success. Or the very opposite. Is this a possible symptom from this? How can I fix it?

Dec 5th, 2016 1:03am

I was struck in the head with a gun and had a skull fracture (hole in my forehead), went to hospital, got stitches and staples, and went to jail. Have a lapse of about a month that I don't remember to this day. I got hooked on drugs and alcohol. Now 20 years later I'm experiencing a lot of the symptoms but having a problem with being able to get diagnosed. I need help. No insurance and broke.

Oct 5th, 2016 7:18pm

I wish I knew if I suffer from a brain injury I suffered decades ago. I was under a lot of domestic violence and one day, my husband, who was runner up to Mr. Hercules in Texas and a captain in fire department..an extremely strong man, hit me so hard I went flying over furniture and hit the back of my head on the floor. I could not get up. I never went to the hospital but over a 3 month period could not walk without help. He used to carry me to a cot he had set up in the garage so I could see children in the back garden playing. Every time I raised my head I felt like I saw quadruplet and the force of the dizziness would force my head back against the cot... Ii could not do a thing. I was terrified of telling anyone and only after 3 months could I again walk unaided. Now at the most 4 decades later I continue to be depressed and have anxiety, difficulty in concentration, difficult to retain information, blurry vision, and sensitivity to light. I have been told by my Dr. in the uk that I probably have had brain injury from beatings around the head. I would love to get well. I have been diagnosed for ptsd, anxiety, and depression in the states. I take citalopram. Is there anything I can do to find out? Cheryl

Sep 24th, 2016 8:26am


Apr 25th, 2016 1:40pm

I want the person who asked about her son being 9 month old who asked about if the initial test that indicated the test being normal, and then later on the child having difficulty to know that yes the difference she is seeing could very well be from the accident and that the test do not always reveal this especially since this child was not able to speak and let the doctors know symptoms, and the basic MRI not showing does not mean her son didn't have a brain injury, and the doctor should have suggested to perform various testing at other stages to rule out effects and thus have offered followed care

Mar 10th, 2016 5:29am

It's because of the MMR vaccine

Jan 14th, 2016 9:29pm

I was in the hospital in 2009 to have a feeding tube placed due to complications from a gastric bypass. The attendant came to take me down for an MRI before the tube was placed. I hadn't been able to eat in a few weeks so when I stood I fell on top of my wheelchair & hit my head on the hinge of the bathroom door. That is the last I remember for almost 2 months. I just remember bits & pieces. I had to go to a rehab facility to learn to walk again. I was diagnosed with Mild to Moderate Alzheimer's in 2013. The neuro didn't do much testing so I am going for a second opinion. He said the MRI that the hospital took when I fell showed only normal shrinkage for my age. I'm beginning to think maybe mine is TBI instead of Alzheimer's.

Jul 8th, 2015 8:09pm

I got into a fight September of 2013 and I cut my head open and got 5 staples and fractured my skull. (Metal part of a table went into my head) now may 23rd 2015 I've had a terrible headache and realized there's and indent where I cut my head and a bump right next to it. Should I be worried?

May 23rd, 2015 7:48am

The bottom line is the present condition. Make sure that is "fully" taken.Proper testing. It is also wise to see the prior damages if any. If there prior damages then you should understand why they were not assisted then. BUT on the overall, assess the person fully. If there were prior damages you will now have a full outlook on his condition. If there were not prior damages...well now there may be. No matter what you will have a full diagnosis as to the extent of his injuries. TBI. in not properly handled then...and properly handled now will bring new damages. The main thins is to understand what is happening now. My full diagnosies was "fully" made by a prominent medical establishment in Manhattan within approximately 5 years. Every other place has been useless. You are going to need the right doctors....John...aka. Nino...

Apr 16th, 2015 8:32am

I was thrown from a horse and trampled when I was 16yrs old. An X-ray and CT scan was done. There wasn't any indication of a major injury. I was actually discharged from the hospital the same day. I ended up with major facial swelling and severe bruising. Two years afterwards I suffered from black outs on and off. I was seen by a neurologist who couldn't find anything wrong. I am now 44 with no short term memory, I sometimes am very paranoid and have experienced severe anxiety/panic attacks. I also have difficulty forming sentences due to forgetting which words to use. Could this be the result of my accident?

Apr 10th, 2015 6:12pm

Hi im 36 and recently found out I had irlen syndrome.  I was evaluated by an OT and was told there were issues with my vision.  I have difficulty reading, processing, headaches, anxiety, and had psychological issue as I got older.  I fell out of a tree when I was around 8 years old.  I played football and received a couple of bad hits which im sure made my condition worse.  I struggled all my life with depression and anxiety.  I was told by my OT that there can be a delay.  I hope that helps. 

Mar 12th, 2015 11:14pm

I've been having really bad headaches for years now and I finally went to the eye doctor about it because my eyes are being sensitive to light all of a sudden. I keep throwing up and back in 2012 I got in to a bad accident but they did a X-ray to see if anything was broken and nothing and then stitched my chin up. I don't remember much at all about it. I just remember heading my head on pavement going 50 miles per hour. My memory has been so bad lately it's hard to remember long term things. Help me

Mar 1st, 2015 7:45pm

My sons symptoms came three weeks after his. Once they did an mri they learned we had a bigger issue in our hands.

Feb 3rd, 2015 12:51pm

I don't agree with the last few sentences either. Very misleading and unprofessional to misguide people lost in the unfamiliar and new life of brain injury. There are too many other people like me that have had delayed symptoms. I was in a multiple impact car crash. My head was fine at first besides broken bones and bruising. After 4-5 days my brain just started shutting down. Diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury my life is totally different. 3 months after accident my balance left. I had to relearn math. Still relearning LIFE 26 months later.

Feb 3rd, 2015 11:42am

No one knows until you've walked in someone else's shoes and we really don't know how this did or didn't affect him.Hope he gets the hep he needs However my son had a TBI where he was air lifted had a subdural hematoma and DAI. He amazingly recovered leaps and bounds because of this it was considered a complicated concussion. This label in a way discredited how traumatic his injury really was. I had a hard time getting his IEP and restrictions in place because the label of complicated concussion is such a wide group of injuries. There is a huge difference between the "take it easy for 2 weeks concussion" to the "airlifted, subdural hematoma, DAI,  2year post concussion syndrome" but yet gets treated almost the same by places like the school or work.Our physicians and specialist have been nothing but amazing but the rest of society doesn't seem to understand. Everyone is now coming out with "I had a concussion,what about me?" with all the hype around TBI's. Nothing wrong with that but I think there needs to be more recognition and different scales or terms because every TBI is on the spectrum but each one needs treated accordingly. They can't be all treated the same esp with so many people getting more on board with the TBI involvement(which is great don't get me wrong). There needs to be clear cut differences for the ones who have significant needs so when they need the help it's not "just another concussion" through places like work or school,but also not giving the less significant ones the same benefit.

Feb 3rd, 2015 10:20am

I don't agree the last few sentences of the article. That if the kid has no symptoms after the crash then probably no brain injury. This couldn't be farther from the truth! I met my devastating second impact syndrome concussions because I too had delayed symptoms. Had a bad concussion symptoms coming on two days later than impact and slowly more and more especially with raising my heart rate. Everyone ignored my complaining and I sustained a "second hit!" Had symptoms so bad after that and post traumatic seizures two months after that. It's been Hell but I'm very lucky and almost one yr now and doing so much better but not 100%. Working out intense is very hard and can make me sick even with fevers. Get that boy to a good Neurologist and rehab for sure it sounds he has brain damage to some extent. Get help now or continue to pay. Our brains are our computers and take control unless we take care of them. I'd suggest nutritional testing- helped me wonders for my autonomic dysfunctions and to help my brain heal faster. Good luck! And God bless!

Dec 17th, 2014 1:33am

I have a friend who had a TBI about five years ago and went through one year of extensive rehab. He does not live near me, but we did meet up a few weeks ago.  During our time together and on the phone, the conversations turned to a sexual nature, in which he basically assured me that we would do this, that, and the other thing, for which he very much wanted, as did I. In essence, after getting my hopes up very high, things took a turn, and the next conversation, he told me that there was no way we could do any of the things, and we could no longer see each other.  I was totally devastated, and could not figure out how he could flit from such a sexual nature to wanting to forget the whole thing and me as well.  My question...can I assume this could or does have something to do with this TBI; and if so, should I realize that this is beyond his control...if it really is?

Nov 22nd, 2014 5:52pm

I was in a motorcycle accident when I was 15 years old.  I hit a telephone pole at an estimated 55mph. I was unconsious for 3 days.   I am now 41 and I have had mental problems primarily depression since I was 37. Before 37, I lived a pretty normal life except for frequent headaches.  My psychiatrist said my symptoms are caused by a change in brain chemistry due to my TBI.  So in my experience, and in the opinion of my doctors,  symptoms of a TBI can occur several years after the actual brain injury.

Oct 14th, 2014 12:19pm

To the psychologist with the 30 yo patient - they have some amazing testing modalities that would likely be able to identify problem areas. There are functional MRI's (not a normal MRI) and SPECT scans, to name a couple. She would need to see a neuropsychologist or neurologist so they could identify the most appropriate testing. With these scans, physicians can actually see the brain functioning and test various areas and types of work that the brain does.   They are even able to evaluate people years later that had birth injury due to lack of O2. Hope this helps. God Bless you all:) 

Jun 24th, 2014 12:05am

I received a subdural hematoma in 1972, being hit by a drunk driver,  I an now 63, and have been sensitive, depressed, low esteem, etc, ever since,  No one has connected the two.  Is it possible, and what should I do to live the remaining years with happiness?

May 18th, 2014 4:30pm

I am now just turned 47 years old.  When I was 18 I was hit by a drunk driver that hit my car broadside at 60MPH +, I don't remember a year before and lost about a year afterwards.

Back then I was just diagnosed with Post Conclusion Syndrome, my cranium was fractured in 8 Places and I was in an awake type coma for 3 days repeating the same questions over and over.

I have had many issues along the way throughout my life with not remembering things the way they happened and my hand writing skills are still declining.

Within the last 4 years I have been having more and more problems and never knew about TBI and therapy until recently.  I have been dealing with chronic headaches that are destroying my life and now two separate occasions I was out with friends and found myself with disorderly conduct charges for episodes of total Delusional States that I don't even remember doing nor do these episodes represents my character or whom I am.

I am very scared now and need to find specialists.  I hope someone has some advise for me.  Please Advise Soon.

Mar 11th, 2014 12:06am

To the person with the 30 year old patient consider communicating with me in email form? I am a 41 year old that suffered a TBI when I was 20 years old. I also have very bad problems in the math area as well as all of the common symptoms of a TBI. I have spent 21 years dealing with this problem in math with doctors shrugging it off. I am now experiencing some new problems from the TBI I believe. And the recent death of my mother on top of it is very much making things worse I think. I know my request is probably asking a lot but I could really use some communication with someone that might understand what is going on with my head. Both my current doctor and past doctors just don't seem to help much when I talk with them. They seem to me like they think that some of my problems are not a big deal, but to me they are a very big deal. Anyway, if you can't respond to me I more then understand and either way your time and consideration is very much appreciated. My email is young.enterprise@suddenlink.net. Thank You, Chris.

Oct 8th, 2013 4:31am

I had a hit on the head 25+ years ago & have been treated for migraines most of this time. One of my triggers is barometric pressure change. We had a year with weather that was mostly stormy and during this period I lost my abilities in math, my short term memory & other things. It was not until then that I found I had PCS. it was explained that under normal circumstance when I had a 'head ache' I had time to for my brain to rest but with a constant trigger I did not. It was a great relief to find what all of the 'odd ball' symptoms I had over the years actually had a name. I am being treated now and I have seen a lot of improvement in my cognitive abilities, however, I think more research needs to be done for the 1 - 4 % of us that dont ever fully recover.

Aug 6th, 2012 6:30pm

I am a psychologist. I have a very intelligent 30 year old patient with some significant problems with math. At age 4 she was hit by a car resulting in loss of consciousness and several skulls fractures and she lost her teeth. Would an MRI all these years later show if she suffered permanent brain damage?

Mar 23rd, 2012 10:34pm

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