Updated: Jul 6, 2020
What is Traumatic Brain Injury?
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a complex injury with a wide variety of symptoms and subsequent disabilities. The impact on a person and his or her family can be devastating. TBI's are most often caused by motor vehicle accidents, sports injuries or simple falls. Concussions are also common causes of TBI resulting in symptoms which may be overlooked or dismissed. Symptoms associated with post-concussion syndrome can persist long after the initial injury. The deficits associated with head trauma may vary depending on the type of head trauma and the severity of the injury.
What are some symptoms of a TBI?
Symptoms of a TBI may not appear until days or weeks following the injury. Some of the most common symptoms are:
Headache that gets worse and/or won’t go away
Repeated vomiting and/or nausea
Ringing in ears
Convulsions or seizures
Inability to awaken from sleep
Weakness or numbness in the arms and legs
What problems can occur after a TBI?
People with a brain injury often have cognitive (thinking) and communication problems that significantly impair their ability to live independently. Some of the problems with social communication might include:
Taking turns in conversation
Maintaining a topic of conversation
Using an appropriate tone of voice
Interpreting the subtleties of a conversation
Responding to facial expression and body language
Keeping up with others in a fast-paced conversation
Some of the cognitive problems might include:
Trouble concentrating when there are distractions
Slower processing and/or “taking in” of new information
Problems with recent memory
Executive functioning problems
Based on the results of a thorough evaluation, a treatment program is developed and may vary depending on the stage of recovery, but it will always emphasize increasing independence in everyday life.
Treatment programs focus on:
Finding ways to improve memory (e.g., using a memory log)
Learning strategies to help problem solving, reasoning, and organizational skills
Working on social skills in small groups
Improving self-monitoring in the home and community
Eventually, treatment may include:
Going on community outings to help the person plan, organize, and carry out trips using memory logs, organizers, checklists, and other helpful aids
Working with a vocational rehabilitation specialist to help the person get back to work or school.
Individual treatment may continue to improve speech, language, and swallowing skills, as medically necessary. However, if the person is learning how to use an augmentative or alternative communication device, treatment is likely to focus on increasing efficiency and effectiveness with device use.
Coping and support
A number of strategies may help a person cope with complications that affect everyday activities, communication and interpersonal relationships. Depending on the severity of injury, a family caregiver or friend may need to help implement the following:
Join a support group. Talk to your doctor or speech-language pathologist about joining a support group that can help you talk about issues related to your injury, learning new coping strategies and getting emotional support.
Write things down. Keep a record of important events, people's names, tasks and/or other things that are difficult to remember.
Follow a routine. Keep a consistent schedule, keep things in designated places to avoid confusion and take the same routes when going to frequently visited destinations.
Take breaks. Make arrangements at work and/or school to take breaks as needed.
Alter work expectations or tasks. Appropriate changes at work and/or school may include having instructions read to you, allowing more time to complete tasks and/or breaking down tasks into smaller steps.
Avoid distractions. Minimize distractions such as loud background noise from a television or radio.
Stay focused. Work on one task at a time.