What is traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- What causes TBI?
- Who is at highest risk of TBI?
- Symptoms of mild TBI (mTBI)/concussions
- Recovery from TBI
A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the result of a blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the function of the brain. Not all blows or jolts to the head result in a TBI. The severity of such an injury may range from ‘mild’—a brief change in mental status or consciousness—to ‘severe’, an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia after the injury. The terms ‘concussion’ and ‘mild TBI’ (mTBI) are interchangeable.
In the military, the leading causes of TBI are:
- Bullets, fragments, blasts
- Motor vehicle accidents
Blasts are a leading cause of TBI for operational personnel in war zones.
Males are about 1.5 times as likely as females to sustain a TBI
Military duties increase the risk of sustaining a TBI
- Excessive fatigue (tiredness)
- Concentration problems
- Forgetting things (memory problems)
- Balance problems
- Vision change
- Ringing in the ears
- Sleep disturbance
- Get plenty of sleep at night and rest during the day
- Return to normal activities gradually, not all at once
- Until you are better, avoid activities that can lead to a second brain injury, such as contact or recreational sports. Remember to use helmets and safety belts to decrease your risk of having a second brain injury
- Don’t drink alcohol, it may slow your brain recovery and it puts you at risk of further injury
- If it’s harder to remember things, write them down
- If you find you are losing important items, begin putting them in the same place all the time
- If you are easily distracted or having difficulty concentrating, try doing only one thing at a time in a quiet, non-distracting environment
- If you feel irritable, then remove yourself from the situation that’s irritating you or use relaxation techniques to help manage the situation. Irritability is worse when you are tired, so test will help
- Be patient! Healing from a brain injury takes time
TBI can cause a wide range of functional changes affecting thinking, language, learning, emotions, behaviour and/or sensation. It 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.
Symptoms of mild TBI or concussion often resolve within hours to days and almost always improve over one to three months. However, if symptoms persist without improvement, medical treatment should be sought.
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