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

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.


Posted on BrainLine March 18, 2011. Reviewed July 26, 2018.

About the author: Jane 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.

Dr. Jane Gillett

Comments (53)

Please remember, we are not able to give medical or legal advice. If you have medical concerns, please consult your doctor. All posted comments are the views and opinions of the poster only.

I had a head injury 2 years ago. I was pushed and hit the back of my head (mainly right side) against a wall twice and into a banister the third resulting in breaking it. Unknown of this and so much going on at the time i never followed up. I was then involved in a car accident (rear ended) May of 2021. Ive been dealing with migraines all my life but im telling all my providers its not that. Im in constant discomfort everyday of pressure and feeling like my brain is swelling. I cannot sleep , im waking up to this feeling and try to navigate a day with this constant feeling. I had an MRI 3/2021 was seemed normal. my PCP nor neurologist will push any further testing or imaging for me. its affecting my mood, sleep , im having moments of feeling unbalanced or lightheaded and who would want to bother eating in this state. i dont know what else can i say to make them understand this is more than my everyday migraine...

Hello ... if one has had a concussion over 20 years ago and then a few more in recent years ... got a DTI scan and lesions and shrinkage of the frontal lobe is shown ... could it be from 20 years ago or one of the more recent concussions? what's it mean when they list blooming ... and I'm assuming that the shearing is from the recent concussions OR could that be very old damage as well? Trying real hard to get back to work but tons of issues ... Thanks.

My head was ran over by a car when I was nearly 17. I experienced legal death temporarily. Unfortunately this happened at school in the cross walk. The principle who witnessed did not call 911. The school nurse was my teacher whom called my mom whom took me go the local urgent care. 20 years later I finally have people taking me seriously about falling to get proper care. I have an memory impairment and forgot about the crash and my primary doctor was unaware. Finally got an MRI after 20 years of migraines. Only recently diagnosed with vertigo and neuropathy...skull fractures identified palpably.
Every doctor told me it was not possible because if it were caused by the accident I would be dead.

Sorry to hear this I suffered a bus crash accident 8 years ago I had a concussion and taken to the hospital and my blood pressure was very high after being thrown and bashed my head full force!
For a year or so later I suffered vertigo and now I have severe high blood pressure and pains in my head on the side that the accident happened.
I was not scanned at the hospital and people have said to me it won’t be that but it seems it is. I think am going to ask my doctor to refer me for a mri. Hope your keeping well and your vertigo has eased off it’s an awful thing to experience. I received an injection for mine which helped.

I hit my head on the bed when I was 3. Still tender to this day and never went to doctor. Then another time on cupboards I smacked hard. Now I feel like I am in la la land feeling and don't care about anything but having a relationship all my thoughts. Idk, will go check but might lock me up with those stories. Something definitely wrong with me.

Get a EEG done. I hope it helps you figure things out

My husband had a trauma to his head quite a few years back. Plus a few more after throughout the years. He developed a seizure disorder in his early 40's. We have been trying for years to figure out what is going on. He is now 57. When I read up on TBI it seems he has almost every symptom and behavior. His neurologists says it isn't a TBI because his scans don't show it. Can a person have a TBI and have it not show on a scan?

Have him get a EEG. Nothing showed on my ct scan nor MRI. EEG shows disturbances to the brain.

I had a head injury 4 years ago, I was wearing a woollen hat at the time (Beanie) and ended up requiring 34 stitches as the impact burst me head open. I did not receive a scan or X-ray when I eventually arrived at hospital. I have been trying to determine the extent of any brain injury since. I have two questions...

On my latest scan I was told that I have U Fibre sparing at the frontal lobe - which is the site of the impact. Could this be caused by the injury or is it potentially something else?

Is the best way to determine the amount of any damage by having a DTI scan?

I was 52 when I had my accident, fit and healthy. Since, I have had numerous problems i.e. sleep, mood, hearing, eyesight. I have recently started to develop an issue when I straighten my spine, I get pins and needles in my hand, the two weeks post accident I had the same issue.

My main issue though is the U Fibre sparing.

Thank you.

I am 27 years old. When I was seven I was in by a car in a traffic accident. I hit my head twice on the car and fractured my ankle and shoulder blade. When I woke up in the hospital, my nose was smashed down into my face from the impact of the car. I found out recently from my mother that even though the hospital knew I was in an accident and that I had to of had some sort of brain injury I was not given a brain scan. Immediately afterward, my grades dropped, I had an extreme attitude change, and I developed an eating disorder called PICA (where you eat inedible objects, i.e., Paper dirt rubber plastic staples light bulbs wood and cardboard). After a couple of months I stopped and started to get better, but I started getting extreme migraines, my mood continued to be poor, I began getting muscle spasms throughout the day (sometimes causing me to lose consciousness), dizziness and memory loss.

I got hit by a car again in 2017. This time on a bike and got a CT scan. They said there was nothing wrong, but I was informed that CT scans don't always show the problem. Now I have migraines all day. I went to the emergency room and asked them to do another scan, and they didn't even check it out they just tried to tell me I was probably dehydrated. I drink plenty of water.

I'm worried it might be something detrimental. What am I supposed to do? The doctors won't help.

Kelly I feel exactly how you feel. Doctors just don’t help.

They don't help because most doctors do not use insight. Docs and psychs are on a fixed method basis, which I agree with most, is absolutely pathetic considering people gaining more problems, and the body learning how to hide them better.

First be very calm doing thing below-if anxious about it your BP will go up. Breath slow and easy when checking it. Try to NOT stress over it - it can raise B/P (blood pressure which can make pain worse)
However,if no relief I’d find a second opinion doc. (try a newer doc or nurse practitioner if possible. They usually cover all the basis since they’re newer) -I especially if your doc has done all that he/she is going to do. Ask about an MRI possibility if this continues and you’re having any odd sequela. They can be pricey but can be the most valuable.
Write on paper with idea of info to tell/show them : Things like exactly where pain is. What makes it worse. What makes it better. Does it bother your sleep/Are you not sleeping well. Not eating well. Any hint of even a bit confusion esp if you’re usually spot on things you say/do. (Ask family) Any new vision disturbances. Fumbling to think of words- if that is unusual for you. Make sure you get enough sleep. Avoid alcohol until things better or gone. Have you
(I’m a retired ER RN) find out if family etc note any thing different.
Good luck. I truly hope there’s been no sequela and all is already under control.

Little things turn into big things. Dont wait baby go.....

Have you tried seeing a Neurologist?

What I'd recommend is an MRI of the brain. If they do it with contrast, it'll show evidence of old injury. Find a family doctor who is willing to look into this for you. Ask them what a treatment plan might be if they find evidence of past injury. If I were you, I'd use this knowledge of a possible treatment plan to decide whether or not the MRI is worth the pocket expense. The migraines may or may not be related to past injury, but a family doctor is trained to look into all the possibilities. Eitherway, the most they could do is gice you meds to treat the symptoms. There's no cure for chronic migraines. I do NOT recommend going to the emergency room again. The costs are high, and this sounds like something that can be resolved with your PCP. I hope this helps. ~a fellow patient

I used to get bad migraines even years after my crash and I ended up being diagnosed with high blood pressure so now I am on candersartan 8mg which has helped my migraines so I don’t get any now. If I have any alcohol well over 3 glasses I feel a headache so definitely related to my blood pressure now mine I assume. But it’s worth getting that checked! Oh and I used to have dizziness and vertigo also gone away (touching wood) x

I am 47 years old and have multiple "crashes" to the head. I deal with depression, insomnia, concentration, focusing, feeling "I am at fault", mood swings, ect. The head injuries occurred from age 8-23. My question is.....Can the head injury stem to my feelings, issues, ect.

Hello Amy, do u also have seizures?

Insurance companies have lobbied against MRI's after accidents because they know they can potentially find a brain injury much easier with a contrast MRI than with a CT scan. They have lobbied for protocols to disallow MRI's because they work.
The protocol for doctors to deny MRI's to potential brain damages has thereby been relegated to worthless non-contrast CT scans.
Too many personal injury cases have been won in the past due to accurate MRI results, so they have paid lobbyists to make these types of scans very difficult to order in cases of auto accidents. Liberty Mutual alone has paid $30,020,000 in 2017 alone in an effort to enforce medical protocols for worthless non-contrast brain scans due to too much evidence in the hands of the injured.
They have thereby required doctors to give 5 optional mri companies to the patient who needs something better than a worthless non-contrast CT scan. They have painted up the MRI industry as a bunch of greedy nepotists and middle-men mark-up men with the intent to leave the victim without any means of proving his case in a court of law. But then they allow the cheaper and largely useless CT scans to be unregulated and perfectly allowable at those very same facilities.
Now go figure.

I've been doing lots of healing through some sort of brain crisis.  What I can say to everyone is, I don't think there is one "answer"  I think the truth is, if you are experiencing symptoms like the many many listed on this website, than yes, there is something in your system that is out of whack.  The energy body is not so well understood by western medicine -- we look for tissue issues... But, as we know, the brain is an electrical system, the tissue is the conductor.  we aren't taught to trust ourselves, but, in most cases, we know when something is wrong, even if a doctor can't "find" proof.  I have found that Biodynamic craniosacral therapy, very good accupuncutre, very healthy eating, yoga and especially the types of yoga proven to help with dimentia have been useful.  Seeking a Neuropsychologist could be very useful as well.  Brain injury or episode of some sort is also terrifying to the soul, and so there can be held trauma in the nervous system also, which totally rewires the brain.  Healing isn't just one road.  Healing the trauma of the initial accident so that the lymbic system can rebalance and get on to healing the injury makes sense.  The vestibular system can get so out of whack -- the body just gets in a cycle of feeling sick.  If you find a good doctor or neurologist great, but ultimately we do have to heal ourselves, even if its with the AID of the medical world.  Cross body movement, yoga, craniosacral therapy, Feldenkrais, acupucnture, Binural sound therapy, brain balancing therapies, FIND THEM AND RECEIVE THEM!  There are so many amazing healing professionals in our culture, we just haven't built all the bridges yet.  

Rose colored glasses can also really help the brain calm down.  It's mid brain activation with concusion syndrome.

Just sharing what I've discovered, in hopes it help others.  There's a book about concussions called Brainlash that is very interesting. I'm currenty seeking some brain hemisphere balancing therapy.  I don't have a diagnosis, but in a way, it doesn't really matter "what happened"  I know my brain was broken, and so all I need to focus on is fixing it!!  Good luck to everyone.

Thx so much for sharing .

Thanks for sharing.

My ex used to constantly beat me. He would punch me in the head, or slam my head against whatever was near, wall, cabinets, anything. It has been a few years, but right after I would get head pains, not like headaches. I haven't had them but now recently I have been having really bad headaches, been dizzy sometimes, can't remember some things, and a few other problems. Could this all be caused from that?

I’m now an older lady but the head injuries from various articles to the head including a huge old iron skillet remain since childhood. The flat place on the lateral L upper side of my head is proof enough to me as I’m now having L brain problems since older. Maybe related -maybe not so much. I venture a guess that there could be strong co-incidence. I retired earlier (as a career ER RN) than I wanted to as realized brain was not as up to speed as had been and needed to be. Never had great memorization skills. Had to know it with intense studying. it’s gotten worse as aging.

My daughter started having seizures at 16 months old. She had no injuries to any part of her body. She is now 37 years old and still has seizures. Are there any tests now that would show a brain contusion after so many years? She had mri's, ekg's, etc over the years and nothing abnormal showed on any tests.

I'm not a doctor, but I can explain to you from my experience and my knowledge. Seizure that caused by epilepsy, brain trauma, can be detected by EEG. If the EEG shows a normal brain activity, the seizure probably coming from the mental illness..

I ever experienced a seizure after having an argument with my aunt and then I blacked out. Then my parents run me to the ER. They run several test such as CT Scan and EEG. Both showed no abnormal activity. Then the doc concluded that the seizure might coming from my mental illness.. After that then I came to the psychiatry, I then diagnosed to have Schizoaffective disorder, panic disorder, anxiety. The seizure might coming from my panic disorder or anxiety...

They just didn't want to be hounded by insurance protocols so you could get an MRI for early detection, and especially not for a personal injury claim if your head injury entailed insurance liability claims.

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?

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.

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 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


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

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.

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?

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...

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?

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. 

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

So sorry to hear this.
Insurance companies have lobbied for healthcare protocols in the hundreds of millions to keep people from obtaining an order for a contrast MRI . CT scans are worthless in their non-contrast mode, so that is what they have forced on our doctors. They refuse to pay for MRI's while hypocritically requiring them in the case of aneurysms that have been found by contrast CT scans and through diagnosis. Aetna will not pay for aneurysm operations unless a contrast MRI shows it more clearly.
They truly ride the fence on CT vs. MRI payouts, and their sole purpose in lobbying for CT scans instead of MRI's in head injury cases is to make sure you have no evidence. They are booking to deny claims as well as to not pay for MRI's unless you exhibit a VERY serious problem.
There real problem with head injury MRI's is that they work too well for personal injury cases.

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

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.

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.

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!

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?

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.

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:) 

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?

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.