Traumatic brain injury (TBI) can occur from direct contact to the head, or when the brain is shaken within the skull, such as from a blast or whiplash during a car accident.

In a brain injury, the person may experience a change in consciousness that can range from becoming disoriented and confused to slipping into a coma.

The person may also have a loss of memory for the time immediately before or after the event that caused the injury. Not all injuries to the head result in a TBI, however.

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The Department of Defense (DoD) estimates that 22 percent of all combat casualties from Iraq and Afghanistan are brain injuries. TBI is also a significant cause of disability outside of military settings, most often as the result of assaults, falls, automobile accidents, or sports injuries.

TBI can involve symptoms ranging from headaches, irritability, and sleep disorders to memory problems, slower thinking, and depression. These symptoms often lead to long-term mental and physical health problems that hurt Veterans’ employment and family relationships, and their reintegration into their communities.

The severity of the TBI is determined at the time of the injury and is based on the length of the loss of consciousness, the length of either memory loss or disorientation, and how responsive the individual was after the injury.

Most TBI injuries are considered mild, but even mild cases can involve serious long-term effects on areas such as thinking ability, memory, mood, and focus. Other symptoms may include headaches, vision, and hearing problems.

Mild TBI, also known as concussion, is usually more difficult to identify than severe TBI, because there may be no observable head injury, and because some of the symptoms are similar to symptoms from other problems that also follow combat trauma, such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

While most people with mild TBI have symptoms that resolve within hours, days, or weeks, a minority may experience persistent symptoms that last for several months or longer.

Treatment typically includes a mix of cognitive, physical, speech, and occupational therapy, along with medication to control specific symptoms such as headaches or anxiety.

To read more about TBI, please visit: VA TBI Research