What are the effects of a traumatic brain injury?


The effects of a traumatic brain injury will depend on the severity of the injury and what part of the brain is affected. Symptoms can be both physical and mental, and may be temporary or more permanent. People who suffer a severe brain injury are likely to be left with long term issues, including physical and mental disabilities, changes to their personality and difficulty leading a fully independent life.


With the right emergency medical care and rehabilitation services, however, the long-term effects of a traumatic brain injury can be significantly reduced. Unfortunately it is usually not immediately clear how much of a recovery brain injury sufferers can expect, and it often takes months or even years until the full picture is clear.


In this article we aim to give an overview of the main types of traumatic brain injury and some of the most common effects they can have.


What is a traumatic brain injury?


As many as a million people a year experience some kind of head injury, but most are relatively minor and will not have a lasting impact. A traumatic brain injury (TBI) refers to a head injury caused by damage from an external source, most commonly a blow to the head.


There are many potential causes of traumatic brain injury, with some of the most common being road traffic accidents, falls, accidents at home and assault.


Types of traumatic brain injury


Traumatic brain injuries are normally classified as either mild, moderate or severe.


Mild traumatic brain injury – This is where the injury results in very brief unconsciousness, or just feelings of nausea and dizziness. This can be the result of banging your head on a low door, slipping over in the street or a similar relatively minor blow to the head. Most people with a mild traumatic brain injury will not experience any lasting effects.


Moderate traumatic brain injury – This is where the sufferer loses consciousness for between 15 minutes and 6 hours, or experiences amnesia for up to 24 hours. In such cases, the patient will normally be kept in hospital overnight under observation and some effects are likely. However, many people who experience a moderate traumatic brain injury will experience a full recovery.


Severe traumatic brain injury – This is where the patient is unconscious for 6 hours or more, or experiences amnesia for 24 hours or more. This is the type of patient most likely to suffer lasting effects and will usually need to be hospitalised and receive specialist rehabilitation care, often for months or years after the original injury. Sufferers of severe traumatic brain injury may well never fully recover and can be left needing specialist care and support for the rest of their lives.


Physical effects of a traumatic brain injury


There are various physical symptoms commonly associated with traumatic brain injury, including:


  • Issues with mobility and balance
  • Stiff or weakened limbs
  • Paralysis
  • Limited range of movement
  • Muscle spasms
  • Ataxia i.e. irregular, uncontrolled movements or tremors effecting co-ordination
  • Loss of sensation in the skin
  • Impaired eyesight, taste and sense of smell
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Difficulty speaking or understanding speech
  • Epilepsy


Mental effects of a traumatic brain injury


Some of the mental symptoms traumatic brain injury sufferers may experience include:


  • Amnesia (including difficulty remembering the events around the injury and/or forming new memories)
  • Confusion
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty recognising people
  • Trouble making plans or solving unusual problems
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Loss of empathy i.e. the ability to see things from other people’s point of view


Behavioural changes due to traumatic brain injury


A severe head injury can causes temporary or permanent changes to the sufferers personality, including:


  • Loss of inhibitions
  • Impulsiveness
  • Obsessive behaviour
  • Irritability
  • Aggression
  • Apathy
  • Self-centredness
  • Mood swings


Long-term effects of traumatic brain injury


The nature and severity of the long-term effects of a traumatic brain injury are usually hard to predict immediately after the injury has occurred. It often takes up to 6 months or even much longer, to be able to get a clear picture of the extent to which a patient’s symptoms will be temporary or more lasting.


Many brain injury sufferers are left with significant mental and physical disabilities, requiring on-going support and specialist care. Some of these services may be provided by the NHS, but others may need to come from private healthcare providers.


The expense of this on-going care, as well as the cost of making any necessary adaptions to the brain injury sufferer’s home, are two of the main reasons many people pursue traumatic brain injury compensation in cases where the injury was not their fault.


A brain injury solicitor will be able to help you determine whether you, or a loved one, has a strong claim for brain injury compensation and give you the best possible chance of getting the compensation you, or they, need to have the fullest life possible.

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