Causes of Traumatic Brain Injuries

According to the Centers for Disease and Control Injury Prevention Center, the leading causes of traumatic brain injury are:

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Outcomes After Brain Injury

Brain injury can result in a range of outcomes:

  • 52,000 die;
  • 280,000 are hospitalized; and
  • 2.2 million are treated and released from an emergency department.

Among children ages 0 to 14 years, TBI results in an estimated

  • 2,685 deaths;
  • 37,000 hospitalizations; and
  • 435,000 emergency department visits.

The number of people with TBI who are not seen in an emergency department or who receive no care is unknown.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Injury Prevention

Severity of Brain Injury

Emergency personnel typically determine the severity of a brain injury by using an assessment called the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS). The terms Mild Brain Injury, Moderate Brain Injury, and Severe Brain Injury are used to describe the level of initial injury in relation to the neurological severity caused to the brain. There may be no correlation between the initial Glasgow Coma Scale score and the initial level of brain injury and a person’s short or long term recovery, or functional abilities. Keep in mind that there is nothing “Mild” about a brain injury—the term “Mild” Brain injury is used to describe a level of neurological injury. Any injury to the brain is a real and serious medical condition. There is additional information about mild brain injury on our mild brain injury page.

Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS)

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The scale comprises three tests: eye, verbal and motor responses. The three values separately as well as their sum are considered. The lowest possible GCS (the sum) is 3 (deep coma or death), while the highest is 15 (fully awake person). A GCS score of 13-15 is considered a “mild” injury; a score of 9-12 is considered a moderate injury; and 8 or below is considered a severe brain injury.

Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (GCS of 13-15)

Some symptoms of mild TBI include:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Irritability
  • Sensitivity to noise or light
  • Balance problems
  • Decreased concentration and attention span
  • Decreased speed of thinking
  • Memory problems
  • Nausea
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Emotional mood swings

This information is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice or examination. A person with a suspected brain injury should contact a physician immediately, go to the emergency room, or call 911 in the case of an emergency. Symptoms of mild TBI can be temporary. The majority of people with mild TBI recover, though the timetable for recovery can vary significantly from person to person.

Moderate Brain Injury (GCS of 8-12)

A moderate TBI occurs when there is a loss of consciousness that lasts from a few minutes to a few hours, when confusion lasts from days to weeks, or when physical, cognitive, and/or behavioral impairments last for months or are permanent. Persons with moderate TBI generally can make a good recovery with treatment and successfully learn to compensate for their deficits.

Source: Defense and Veterans Head Injury Program & Brain Injury Association. Brain Injury and You. 1996.

Severe Brain Injury (GCS Below 8)

Severe brain injury occurs when a prolonged unconscious state or coma lasts days, weeks, or months. Severe brain injury is further categorized into subgroups with separate features:

  • Coma
  • Vegetative State
  • Persistent Vegetative State
  • Minimally Responsive State
  • Akinetic Mutism
  • Locked-in Syndrome