Traumatic Brain Injury

Definition:
A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is defined as a blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the function of the brain. Concussions, also called “closed head injuries”, are a type of TBI. Not all blows to the head are considered a TBI. The severity of such an injury may range from “mild” to “severe”.

Mild to Severe TBI:
A mild TBI may be a brief change in mental status or consciousness. A severe TBI may result from an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia after the injury. TBI can cause a wide range of functional changes affecting thinking, sensation, movement, language, and/or emotions. Some symptoms may appear immediately after the injury and other symptoms may take weeks to notice. Sometimes people may not recognize or admit that they have a problem because of the nature of the injury and the symptoms. In post-concussion/mild TBI patients, recovery time is within weeks/months, but a small percentage has persistent symptoms. Patients with moderate to severe TBI may never fully recover their pre-injury function.

Connection to Service Members:
The rate of combat-related brain injuries in service members returning from the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan appears to be higher than in previous conflicts. Nearly 30% of all patients with combat-related injuries seen at Walter Reed Army Medical Center from 2003 to 2005 sustained a TBI. Blast injuries are a significant cause of TBIs. TBI is often associated with severe multiple trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or undiagnosed concussions.

PTSD / TBI Quick Facts Sheet (PDF)