The severity of a traumatic brain injury (TBI) may range from “mild,” i.e., a brief change in mental status or consciousness, to “severe,” i.e., an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia after the injury.
CDC estimates that at least 5.3 million Americans currently have long-term or lifelong need for help to perform activities of daily living as a result of a TBI.1
- TBI can cause a wide range of functional changes affecting thinking, sensation, language, or emotions.
- Thinking (i.e., memory and reasoning);
- Sensation (i.e., touch, taste, and smell);
- Language (i.e., communication, expression, and understanding); and
- Emotion (i.e., depression, anxiety, personality changes, aggression, acting out, and social inappropriateness).2
TBI can also cause epilepsy and increase the risk for conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and other brain disorders that become more prevalent with age.2
About 75% of TBIs that occur each year are concussions or other forms of mild TBI.3
Repeated mild TBIs occurring over an extended period of time (i.e., months, years) can result in cumulative neurological and cognitive deficits. Repeated mild TBIs occurring within a short period of time (i.e., hours, days, or weeks) can be catastrophic or fatal.4
The following general tips can aid in recovery:
- Get lots of rest. Don't rush back to daily activities such as work or school.
- Avoid doing anything that could cause another blow or jolt to the head.
- Ask your doctor when it's safe to drive a car, ride a bike, or use heavy equipment, because your ability to react may be slower after a brain injury.
- Take only the drugs your doctor has approved, and don't drink alcohol until your doctor says it's OK.
- Write things down if you have a hard time remembering.
- You may need help to re-learn skills that were lost. Your doctor can help arrange for these services.5
- Thurman D, Alverson C, Dunn K, Guerrero J, Sniezek J. Traumatic brain injury in the United States: a public health perspective. Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation 1999;14(6):602–15.
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Traumatic brain injury: hope through research. Bethesda (MD): National Institutes of Health; 2002 Feb. NIH Publication No.: 02-158.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Report to Congress on mild traumatic brain injury in the United States: steps to prevent a serious public health problem. Atlanta (GA): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2003.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Sports-related recurrent brain injuries—United States. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports 1997;46(10):224–7.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Facts about concussion and brain injury, 1999.